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F, Forget-me-not

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

F, Forget-me-not
ne m'oubliez pas

F is a seriously fabulous letter, just look at this list of unusual words beginning with F.  No wonder I was flummoxed by word choice for today’s A to Z Challenge. Perhaps, I fantasized late into E-evening, I’d impress by throwing in a few of these special-occasion words, like forficulate (like scissors), or this doozy: floccinaucinihilipilification (setting at little or no value), but quickly realized: no-one appreciates a flexiloquent fabulist intent on fluffed-up fustian.

flexiloquent (speaking ambiguously or using words of doubtful meaning)
fabulist (one who invents fables)
fustian (pretentious writing; inflated or nonsensical language)

In the end I decided on a light blog, filled with flummadiddle, a little F-for-funny, like my dad, with some mention of F-for-Fungus Features or Flibbertigibbet, his nicknames for a younger me. I’d get it done before breakfast.

But no.

A Fond Farewell

Last night, I had a full-on multi-sensory dream. I was mid-floor in an elevator with a sister (one of three with alternating ID), my mother and her mother, Nan. I was departing for somewhere unknown after a visit home. We were all trying not to cry. I hugged Nan with care as her neck didn’t quite bend at the angle necessary for hugging. I literally held her fine bones, her fragile carriage, felt her skin move over her thinness. She was chalky-soft and lovely. “I love you,” we all said, multiple times. Awake . . . that was it. But I felt I’d just hugged my grandmother, and what was that . . . smell? Talcum powder scented my pillow.

By lunch time, I was still fretting over F-words. Forget-me-not, I heard. Okay, I didn’t hear it, it scrolled across my cortex like a CNN feed. But I didn’t want to write about ‘forget-me-not’ – kinda froofy if you ask me. Once the sun was up in Australia, I skyped Mum and asked if Nan smelt like talcum powder. Yes, she said, distinctly so. You might accuse me of being filiopietistic (of or relating to an often excessive veneration of ancestors or tradition), but that settled it. F, for today’s purposes, is for ‘forget-me-not’.

Things I Don't Know that I Need to Know

There’s ‘forget me not,’ the sentiment, which is … pretty straight forward.  And forget-me-not’s, the flowers. Those pretty blue flowers with the yellow burst in the center –  I’ve seen them drape from flower beds and pots. Thoreau thought them beautiful ‘for being small and unpretending.’ Interestingly, Google tells me that in April of 1999, the forget-me-not flower was adopted as the official flower for Grandparents Day (September 13 in 2015). Huh. September was chosen to signify the ‘autumn years’ of life. I didn’t know there was a Grandparent’s Day. It even has its own website, forget-me-not’s front and center. All information I don’t know that I need.

I didn’t know this either: The idea for Grandparents Day came from West Virginia’s Marian McQuade, elder-care worker, mother to fifteen, and grandmother to forty. The United States Congress passed legislation in 1978, and President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation stating the the first Sunday after Labor Day was to be National Grandparents Day. 

So I’m not sure – have I chosen wisely? Fulfilled my family duty?
Floriferous thoughts? Or fiddle-faddle from a head filled with floccose fairy floss?

floriferous (bearing flowers)
floccose (woolly)


© Robyn T. Murphy

E, Easter Ode

Posted by on Apr 6, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 2 comments

E, Easter Ode

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0This ode, because Easter is rebirth and hope and all that is found in the word: Offspring. Yes, I know it’s E-day, but I couldn’t wait for O.

Middle English ofspring, from Old English, 
from of off + springan to spring.
Related Words: brood, hatch, litter, young, 
child, scion, family, kin, lineage, stock

Thanks Merriam


As we all know, successfully raised children are supposed to be off the family plate (of responsibilities), gone from the family nest, off with you then, off off off!


For some of us, springing from the parental diving board seemed easier than watching our own child’s toes curl over the edge, knees bent; the spring of the board, poised to take flight. In my late teens, I loaded up that board with maximum rebound, happily arced into position and hit life’s waters with vertical enthusiasm. And didn’t look back, or so I thought. Of course, there is the other spring, the season of Spring, when we as children, and our children, are meant to blossom, extend roots long and sturdy.

What I didn’t anticipate was the spring back to friendship, as happens when one has the privilege to reconnect with parents as adult children. Another life cycle, another kind of dependency, another rebirth. And today, the day after Easter Sunday, I am grateful for this pause in the springing, with my tween on dry land and both parents beaming at me over Skype, holding fast to their Autumn.


Easter Ode to my dad


This man died in his twenties

Began anew in his love for a wife

We came, we five

Carnivorous by-products

And he toiled, and provided, this stoic man


This man died again in his forties

Died to his fort of silence

Its walls of resignation

This time he began anew with words

And he talked, this vulnerable man


Late in his fifties this man died again

To open the front door, wide

He softened, he shed

He waxed and he welcomedA2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

And he listened, and was proud, this feeling man


Now at seventy-eight, this man is our friend

Our anchor, our compass

Command central, Comedy Central

He is gratitude, he is peace

The one to emulate, this warm, funny man


Cancer upends him, this spirited man

He fights and he prays

He picks us up and urges us on

He loves us, this man, better than we deserve

One more round, please, for

This son, this brother, this husband, mentor and father, this friend, neighbor and grandfather. Just one more for this man, this brave, loving man




© Robyn T. Murphy, images/text

D, Dying, not yet Dead

Posted by on Apr 4, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 2 comments

D, Dying, not yet Dead


I’m wondering if the path on the other side will be much like the path encountered during the process of dying. Like a mirror. Easy in, easy out.



No one told me, and feel free to disagree, but it strikes me as I sit with Dad in the waiting room of the Wesley Cancer Center, that Dying and Dead are antonyms, as different from each other as Living and Dead.

We are alive until we’re not. Until the very millisecond we’re not.

It’s not clear why I haven’t seen dying this way before. I worked as a Physical Therapist in the HIV wards in San Francisco in the early nineties, I lost a patient or two during my hospital rotations on the Gold Coast, Australia. “I just don’t know how they get through it,” I’d think of the bedside visitors. I don’t remember a lot of laughter or light in those situations. Mostly I felt burdened by the deterioration and sometimes shocking decline of the human body. It was, I admit, kind of depressing.

And yet, here in the waiting room is my smoochable dad, dying, I guess, thanks to the whole Small Cell Lung Carcinoma thing; and that giggling lady in the scarf who remembers all manner of jokes and limericks, and that man who loves Downton Abbey almost as much as me; and many more who get up each morning, read the paper and decide what to wear. Despite their pallor, they are colorful characters, all very much living. There is, I’ll admit, that fellow with his son. He sleeps his way through his chemo and declines the food the volunteers bring through. We smile at each other. His son stays with him in silent loving companionship until he is taken through. Loved, living.

As is the way, I’ve read many times recently what I’ve been thinking a lot recently – that we are taught how to live, but not how to die. Dying ‘well’, whatever that means to you and me, is clearly easier on the die-er as well as the friends and family. See San Francisco’s Zen Hospice, possibly a model for future end-of-life facilities.

 And then the onward path, as long and lush as the path I’ve just travelled.

I guess we’ll never know, but I wonder with my brand of weird wondering, if preparing to ‘die well’ assists us on the other side of death. It’s probably a loaded topic that I should avoid, but this day, as Dad jokes with the nurse who searches for a decent vein, I’m wondering if the path on the other side will be much like the path encountered during the process of dying. Like a mirror. Easy in, easy out.

If dying is the road to the moment of death with it’s downward gradient, impending darkness, degradation, what might the path look like, immediately on the other side? Black then grey then the great White Light? A staircase leading skyward? A meadow of blooming flowers? When I think of a quick or instantaneous death, I imagine a narrow path, a bridge or waterslide that shunts us into a new realm. But what about the considered kind of dying? The six-month-to-live kind? I close my eyes. Here is what I see:

I see a river scattered with stepping stones. There are many ways to cross, many ways to prepare and many opportunities to sit and dangle feet in the water. I’m sitting on a rock in that river, toes rippling the surface. I’m a visitor, an observer. It’s up to me – dress for it and stay dry, charge through and arrive soaked and exuberant; step with certainty, graceful and poise. On the other side, I see another set of stepping stones, many choices of how to proceed, resting places to take in the beauty. And then the onward path, as long and lush as the path I’ve just travelled.


Dying, you say, aren’t we all dying? Are we ‘dying’ from the moment we stop growing? Or are we dying once we get the diagnosis, see the semitrailer swerve?

What is your definition of dying?

Do you think preparation and contemplation can smooth out the ride?



© Robyn T. Murphy

C, Cancer. Thirteen things you may not need to know

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

C, Cancer. Thirteen things you may not need to know

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Day 3, A to Z Challenge, and there’s no escaping it. Try as I might, I can’t write about anything else except my dad’s cancer.

Even shopping lists take a bizarre turn and end up in my ‘Dad’s Cancer’ folder. In this folder I toss medical research, helpful ideas, dark thoughts that need to be shredded, quotes from Dad, and so forth. All ingredients in what really is: my stew of disbelief.

Using the A to Z for personal therapy seems somewhat selfish, so let me start with what I’ve learnt since we got the news.

Seven Things I've Learnt that May or May Not Help You. At All, Really:

1. The tears will come and take over your poise, and

pain merges with tears, and forms a puddle.

However –

It’s possible to smile through tears, and

receive love right there, in the middle of your puddle.

2. “Hair is just decoration.” (Barry)

3. The fight is for time.

4. You’re alive until you’re not, that is to say:

Dying and Dead are antonyms. They are as different as Living and Dead.

5. Knowledge is power but share it discriminatively.

6. Cancer is heavy. Carry it with somebody.

7. Making lists of things you’ve learnt really does assuage guilt over writing for therapy.


Six Things that Saved me (note I didn't capitalize the 'm')

1. YOGA! Thank God for yoga.

– Turn your thoughts into breath and your pain into light.

2. GOD! Thank yoga for God.

– Pray for miracles in whatever form they may take.

3. Laugh when you want to scream.

Scream and hug when you want to hide.

4. Ask, “How can I help?”

– Optional: listen to the response. Additional option: do that thing that is helpful.

5. Know your love language, and ask for what you need to feel loved. Or just take it – mine is Quality Time. I parked myself next to Dad during his chemo sessions. Voila! Quality Time.

6. When in doubt, watch comedy.

Until tomorrow! 

© Robyn T. Murphy



B, Barry

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

B, Barry
Not so


You think you’re a normal kinda bloke


but you’re not


You think you grew up lost in a wild dozen, that you fell off the back of the horse on the way to school

And that makes you an ordinary boy

But you’re not


You had a career in one bank, with no college education and you stayed forty years

And that means you are a straightforward working guy

But you’re not


You think you raised five yourself and you turned an eye to work when it was time for reaping,

and that makes you a mainstream dad

But you’re not


You think that you learnt to talk, really talk, and listen, really listen

and that makes you a regular husband and father and friend

But you’re not


You think that you have a simple little life with a simple little house and a sensible little plan for your future

and that makes you an average kind of provider

And you’re not


And you think that walking and talking and traveling and adventuring and befriending and supporting the world at large

makes you a mere spectator of a larger wonderful

And you’re not


You think you make a slither of difference to the dozen people who lean on you, who turn to you, who listen to you

And that makes you a local legend

But that’s not it


You don’t know that you’re a rock and a comfort, an unfathomable love, a respite, a leader, a catalyst, a mentor, an inspiration and a piece of every heart.

You think that you’re just a little piece of life’s pie

And you’re not


Those who met you, hugged you, looked into your twinkling blues and never forgot you

They know what you think – that you’re a passing acquaintance, an orphan pee in a wee pod

They know you’re not


And we, the ones who circle you, now that your cells betray you

We watched you, the master of contentment, the one who steered us, propped us up, loved us, showed us how to be. We hoped you would become the friend we all need. We thought you’d be the one to touch every soul you meet, in any land, the one to change the tilt of planet earth, just by being Barry, the one who gets us, accepts us, the one who lights up the path with humor and gratitude. We knew you’d be a clandestine world-wide phenomenon, a master of life from a humble chariot, a leader of spirit with an army of optimism and a sword of inner calm. Special.

And you are.


© Robyn T. Murphy


A, Amygdala

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in A to Z Blog 2015, onWriting | 0 comments

A, Amygdala

I woke up this morning thinking: Amygdala.A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0

This is explainable by two facts – 1. the A to Z Challenge starts today, and 2. my dad is facing a decision on prophylactic brain irradiation following chemo for lung cancer, and this decision includes the possibility of cranial sparing of the hippocampus at a treatment center far from home.

Amygdala? Hippocampus? Prophylactic what?

These are the things you shouldn’t need to think about. Like the names of chemotherapy drugs and survival statistics.

Why ‘amygdala’? Some part of my medical training must have floated to the surface during the night, reminding me of the anatomy of the brain. The amygdaloid bodies (there are two, you see), sit adjacent to the hippocampus (the latter needed for short-term memory, executive brain function), and are part of the limbic system, the feeling/remembering/adrenalin/smelling center of the brain.

Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation - this is 'a thing'. 
It even has its own acronym: PCI

Apparently the brain is brainy enough to have a layer of protection against the chemotherapy drugs, making it a safe haven for cancer cells after the rest of the body has evicted them, thus the radiation works to to make the brain a hostile environment, to create a travel alert for cancer cells, so to speak. The kink in that plan is the cognitive deficits caused by the radiation, and they can be long-lasting, affect memory and processing and personality. Of all the information thrown at my parents, this was the hardest to digest. in a few short months, they will need to decide whether to radiate Dad’s brain, or let the cancer get at it. There are some treatment centers (Sydney, Australia, and note the current trial at John Hopkins) that will ‘spare’ the hippocampus (storer of long-term, ‘declarative’ memory) during radiation, making these deficits less likely. Great.

But how, I need to know, does it make sense to spare the hippocampus without sparing the amygdala?

“The amygdala is shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions.” (Wikipedia).

A well-oiled amygdala means social connections, 
assertive behavior, clear decision-making. 
This much I knew, the rest I had to google.

What I’ve come to understand is that the amygdala is part of what makes us who we are – part of our uniqueness, integrating emotional memories and responding in a unique way. My husband’s mother had Alzheimer’s and I ‘get’ that this loss can be the worst of all the cognitive losses. Sharp edges of personality slipping into a soupy well.

So right, all very depressing, but this explains why I awoke thinking ‘amygdala’. Or does it? Letting go of any control of somebody else’s cancer journey is so much harder than it sounds. And this kind of nitpicking research and questions for the belabored oncologist is not helpful, I’ve learnt. Then why?

Could this obscure noun be visiting to spray 
a potpourri scent on my own state of mind?

Truth is, concussion and sick-dad aside, I’m afraid I’m mid brain-fart. Yes, some stinky brain butt has expelled stinky gas into my amygdala, putting me into a state of brain-takes-flight-atitis where inflammation of said flight creates a nowhere trajectory. In other words, I’ve lost my mojo. Baby.

At this moment, I don’t know what to do with my life, I don’t know how I feel, including how I feel about not knowing what to do with my life. If I were to break it down in Web MD decision-tree manner, this delirium includes:

– apathy

– distractibility

– poor/no decision-making

– lost in the world

– lack of direction

Perhaps you can relate? An overloaded amygdala? Too bloated with emotional memories to work with the rest of the limbic engine. Sharp edges of personality slipping into a soupy well. Well that’s today anyway.

Which brings me to tomorrow, ‘B’-day. Because B, obviously and declaratively, is for brain-fart.

Unless I wake up thinking something else entirely.



A number of studies regarding a patient with little to no amygdala function, cited in this article, outlined findings suggesting: “.. the amygdala plays a role in memory and in the modulation of social and emotional behavior,” “the amygdala plays a pivotal role in triggering a state of fear,” “the amygdala is necessary for linking external stimuli to the elicitation of appropriate social behavior and to the appropriate experience of emotion, particularly negative emotions.” The patient exhibited “impaired recognition of social and emotional information.” On Healthline: “The abnormal working of the amygdaloid body can lead to developmental problems, depression, anxiety, and autism.” This study discusses hippocampal-sparing.


© Robyn T. Murphy

perfectly high thank you #TBT

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in onWriting | 0 comments

perfectly high thank you #TBT

This morning, someone close to me said this:

“I think it would be good for you to do LSD.”

We were not fighting, it was intended to be helpful. Then, more perplexing: “But I don’t want to be around. You should get together with (your best friend) and do LSD with her.”

Of course I asked: WHY? And added that I preferred to keep a firm boundary around my sanity; and why on earth would it be good for me to hallucinate, further expand the edges of an overactive imagination? Was I too prudish? Too stuffy? Too buttoned-up?

This is going to be good, thought I, ready for a paradigm shift, or at least an interesting discussion. But I didn’t get a reason.

“It’s just my recommendation.” Huh? “You need to do LSD,” he insisted, “with (your best friend).”  I scratched my head, slurped on my veggie smoothy with MACA powder and anti-oxidant chaser.

That evening, an intrepid friend recounted her Costa Rica adventure in which she floated around psychedelically on Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca (pronounced Iyawoska), if you google it, is all about dimethyltryptamine and divinity, and requires a trained Shaman and considerable preparation. After some dark, grotesque experiences, her mind travelled to what sounded like nirvana / heaven / enlightenment, and she came to several realizations of the heart. Beautiful right? I admire her courage, but honestly, her stories are enough for me to trip over for days. I am good at evolving vicariously. So why, I needed to know, did I ‘need’ to do LSD?

As the day itself evolved, I got more annoyed. I mean – really! – in the normal course of conversation, I would never throw in, “You need to have an affair,” or, “Shoplifting would be good for you.”

“Maybe because you talk so much,” a gym-buddy panted, “No offense, and maybe sometimes, it might, maybe sound, like you’re looking, you know, maybe searching for answers, maybe?”

“Blocked kundalini,” suggested the grocery store clerk. “He senses it.”

Nope, and nope.

I texted the best friend anointed with the task of tripping with me.

so . . . aren’t I weird enough without mind-altering? 
do I have existential despair? am I possessed? 
what am I missing? - do I need to do LSD? 
only you would know better … love, Murf.

Her answer tickled from the cells of my limbic stupor to the edges of my latent tactile receptors. I nodded at my iPhone as the school bus pulled up.

     Murf, she answered, we ARE LSD.

I spotted the braids and shiny-eyed smile, and walked home hand-in-hand with my daughter, in love with the day, feeling outrageously high.


PS – No plans for LSD, in case you’re reading, Mum, Dad, daughter, Father Heaney.

Little Pieces of Extraordinary

Posted by on Dec 13, 2014 in Health, onWriting, Spiritual Path | 0 comments

Little Pieces of Extraordinary
Life begins now, no, now, wait . . . now.

Meditation calmed my brain after the slam to my head, now five months ago. The rabid mental slideshow that exhausted my whole self finally slowed, but I’m left, strangely, with two words that follow me around, reign in my grandiose thoughts and make me groan.
Think small.
For me that means: finish that manuscript, instead of imagining the Oprah interview. It means detail. Ugh. But I love to live at the finish line. The Secret says: imagine you are already living the life you want, Buddha says: be still. So still I am, future Pulitzer in hand; positive mantras aplenty, gargantuan dreams float in and out like manna. And yet there they are, those pesky words – think, and small.

Little Things

The little things – I’ve heard they count. I’ve heard that a lot lately from those who seem to live seriously large. So these little things – they stack together somehow to make a life – a small, or extraordinary, life. But how does that work? What is the glue or the energy between them and how do I link them in a way that brings my inner and outer worlds in balance while living my best life. Yes, I am, officially, Oprah’s biggest fan.

I’ve long-pondered the step beyond being ‘in the moment’ (you can wring your brain out in my former posts: Linger and Weird, Random Thoughts) and it seems my personal quest – understanding the space between the moments – continues, with the idea of thinking small. Here’s today’s thought: Plotting Moments – brought to you by 40 minutes on the elliptical, which means 40 minutes of Bloomberg television.

Life Graph

The line on a graph links plot points, making a shape, taking a direction, it leaves an inscription in the form of a line. The points define the shape of the graph, the line through the plot points gives it form. Right. So imagine that the plot points are the times we find ourselves, when we are mindful, aware, awake to the happenings inside and out. Join those points, those moments, and the line is a life that matches our inner journey. If we are not mindful, not in the moment, we create no plot point, we leave no trace. (Collective gasp.)

Plotting Today

I like to trace a line through the air in those rare moments of presence – in a yoga salutation for example. It says – I am here I am here now here and look I was there and now I am here. This is how I want to make a meaningful life. Make dots on the graph of life, be in the detail of every moment. Then, the enigmatic function – link the dots.

This is what I plan, this one small day, with all my brain-fragmented worries. Today I will think small. Make each little detail a dot on a graph, a plot point moment. Then, somehow, I will trace a line through every moment. And then, I’ll get back to you.

Concussion, Part II: Panic Attack

Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in Health, onWriting | 0 comments

Concussion, Part II: Panic Attack

So that was a panic attack. Huh.

For those of you who haven’t heard how panic attacks can be – that was me, just a few months ago –  this next section is for you. My understanding is that my kind of panic attack was related, whether directly or indirectly, to neurological impairment, as one might have with concussion, or, I’ve learnt, something like Lyme’s disease. Please skip ahead if you are familiar, for it may provoke unnecessary anxiety.

This is a public service announcement.

     First red flag: sitting at breakfast with Savannah when I break out into a full-body, dripping-droplets kind of sweat. I think, “What a cruel joke that I get my first hot flash after surviving a hit on the head.”
     Second red flag – my heart is racing and I put down my coffee half-way. Here, I should have known something was up.
(Coffee + me = tight.)
     Savannah is all set for her day at Dance Camp and I drive off for my prophylactic neck flexion-extension X-Ray to check for instability after the concussion injury of the prior weekend; mild headache noted and still warm, maybe a little nauseated. Am I nauseated? Or dizzy? Maybe both. The world is kinda bloated like too many Photoshop effects have been applied. No, the world is definitely moving and the car is still, though the speedometer shows 40 MPH. I’m going to pass out! Need to pull over but someone needs to know. Calmly (really!), I dial my doctors office.
     “Four people ahead of you in the queue. Please hold.” My heart is racing. Right leg shaking, heel pounding the ground under the accelerator pedal. A rising ickiness wants to constrict my throat and snuff out my brain. I’m dying! It’s a stroke or a brain bleed. Please, God –  just get me to the ER so they can race me through to brain surgery on a stretcher. Please, God. 

     I’m not going to make it. So many things I need to tell Kent and Savannah. My body is shaking and my heart beating in my throat, fast. A few more turns to the ER. I have the number in my speed dial.
     “Something is happening to me. I think I have an intra-cranial bleed so I can’t pull over because I won’t wake up and no one will find me. I am going to come straight to the ER but I’ve never been there before.” Can’t catch my breath. “Can I pull up in front? I don’t know if I’ll make it from the car to the entrance.”
     “Ma’am, MA’AM! We can’t give advice over the phone.” OMG. My doctor’s office is closer. Someone pulls out directly in front. Thank you God. Now I can’t breathe at all. I’m gasping, heaving, shaking and yes, if it’s okay with you, I’m panicking. That’s what you do when you are about to die. 

I love my doctor, Elizabeth Etamad. She needs a doctor-Oscar for, well, everything she does. She knows that I am, without exception, a low-low blood pressure girl. Until today. Two-hundred-over-something. Good God, their eyes say.
     “What is happening to me? I ask, Sigourney Weaver-esque. “Can I please breath into a paper bag?” No help. Still struggling for a breath. Corpse pose helps, a little. Ambulance is on its way.
     “Let’s get a CT.” Dr Etamad is expecting my usual resistance with any kind of medical anything.
     “Yes. Please.”


Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Health, onWriting, Spiritual Path | 0 comments


Part 1

Haven’t you heard many times that if you don’t listen to the whispers of the universe, the Universe will yell at you? I’ve heard it from Oprah, and Mark Nepo, and I’m pretty sure Marianne Williamson agrees. Well my universe didn’t just yell, it hit me on the head. And the universe, this last Super-Moon Saturday, two days ago, was a 200+lb nurse from Chico. His name, he said, was ‘Joe’.

True Story

As we approached from the west shore, Emerald Bay lay its bluest greens like peacock plumage around the enduring granite of Fannette Island. And as we circled the second parking lot, the objections of husband and daughter were drowned by the previous day’s idyll. The girlfriends had left and the family was here, it was the second last day of a Tahoe vacation and I knew exactly how the weekend would go.

“Mom, Let’s go to Meek’s Bay and try again later.”
“No you guys, you have no idea how fun it is to paddle to the island and hike to the old tea house. Jenny and I did it two days in a row. It just wasn’t this crowded.”
“But don’t drive around again okay? We keep just missing the parking spots. Let’s just come back later.”
“Remember the hike up to the lakes, how you whinged and moaned that it was too far? Well this is a short little walk down to a museum with kayaks and paddle boards and a sweet beach on the shores of Emerald Bay – and a dock to jump from. When I saw it, I couldn’t wait to bring you guys here. I’m not giving up.”
“Fine,” from the back seat, arms folded, Kent looking skeptical. I knew better.

A bank of clouds settled over the peaks above us, shadowing the trail, the Vikingshom Mansion and beach below. How perfect to hike in the cool looking out at the sun-bleached day that stretched from a line just offshore, to the watercraft circling the island, to the disco-blues of the water, to the silver-green pines of the east.

jumpFromDockThe dock was busy with families lining up to leap the impressive ~15 feet to water. Kent and Savannah jumped over and over, and then I joined them. Just stepped right out and wow, a cold and clear rush, and made it back to the surface, Savannah and Kent to my right and, Who was screaming ‘stop!’? and WHAM. My head. A body just hit my head. I surfaced again, my hands to my head, my legs treading water, but black. I could only see black. ‘Help,” I said quietly. Then blurry figures. Kent. My head, my head, like my scalp turned to butter. Blurry shapes. Voices, yelling. ‘Call an ambulance’, ‘no reception’. Come lay down, sit down, don’t close your eyes. Look in my eyes. Kent, yelling at someone, swearing. A hand rubbing circles on my back. A blurry, sweet soul next to me, so kind and calm.  A towel around my shoulders, ice on my neck. Watch my finger. The finger attached to Chico-Joe, built like a wrestler, smelling like beer. It’s blurry, I see it but it’s blurry. Can you smile? Hell no, you are not getting a smile from me. Oh crap, I actually can’t smile. I have to open my jaw, wide. My left sinus had shifted perceptively (is that possible?) and I felt it jostle in my head with any small movement.

“I’m from Healdsburg. Where do you live?” This voice from the blurry, noisy chaos. She smelled of children’s sunscreen. I knew she was evaluating me, she told me earlier (did she?) that she was a nurse. I dutifully watched her blurry finger move from side to side, let her test my grip and my coordination. She kept talking in my ear, calm, conversational, while they found my hysterical daughter. I could see enough, by the time she left, to catch the real concern in her eyes. Thank you. I hope I said it out loud.


supermoonKent and I talked it out that same night back at the cabin and decided that, in truth, there is some strange comfort in blaming someone when in the middle of this sort of shock phase, even though it’s not fashionable. For Savannah’s sake, we chose to transfer blame from ‘Joe’, to the Super Moon. At 10pm, we three traumatized souls walked out onto the longest pier, and talked to the moon. Kent yelled at it, asking (in essence) why the heck did it need to create such a conundrum? I told the moon that okay already, I heard, and I’ll listen more closely to the whispers of the universe, and try not to swim upstream. Savannah asked it to please behave better in the future. And we forgave that big hunk of moon. We forgave it and it smiled down on us.



I knew, at the time, exactly what part of the 200+ pound Joe hit me after he ignored the horrified onlookers and did a back flip on to my head. But that part of the memory has now gone. Kent and Savannah saw the impact, but they also can’t remember the detail of what actually hit my head – his feet? his buttocks? Was he tucked in a roll or stretched out to enter the water? None of us remember.

The next day, I lay on the sand at Meek’s Bay, iced and medicated. I wondered, what the heck was that all about – that split second that could have been it for me? The perils of alcohol for sure. And yes, stuff just happens. That too. Certainly I was blessed to have four nurses (three sober) and a dentist on the beach, all willing to help. What a gift. But what else?

I got this: That this really is it, this one life. It’s not for struggle, or for me to pummel into the shape I want it. It’s not a thin line through a forrest, but something to bathe in, a body of water, a lake or an ocean but with more dimensions that we can imagine. And, the big one: I already matter. I matter to my loved ones, I matter to the stranger on the dock, I matter just because I am. To everyone. And everyone matters, even Joe. That’s a lot of mattering.

Still Processing

It’s Monday, July 14. I spent an hour with my doctor today, tomorrow I get a precautionary neck X-Ray, Friday I see an eye doctor to evaluate a (hopefully transient) hemianopea (loss of visual field) on the right. Things are foggy. Words are a little tricky to find. But I’m grateful for all that wasn’t injured, and know it’s a miracle that I walked back up the path and back out onto a pier to yell at the moon that same day.

I wonder about the drunk ‘Joe’, the nurse from Chico. Is he a wee bit PTSD’d, like us? Does he wonder if there’s meaning to a preventable accident? Does he comprehend that he compressed someone’s skull onto their brain onto their neck from a great height?

I don’t know if the universe dropped Chico-Joe on my head to yell at me, to wake me up; or if my yell was Joe’s first whisper.

I just know that I’m still here, and I’m listening.


It’s Tuesday, July 15.  You probably already know, but I realize how premature it was to judge this crazy accident, to think I could find the lesson and close the door. I felt lucky, alive, secretly invincible. It was all just too neat and swoony. You were right.

I spent today in the ER.


. . . To be continued.


Super moon?

The point in the orbit when the moon is closest to Earth is called perigee. W.. Because of its proximity, it appears slightly larger and brighter and has earned the nickname of “super moon.” There are five of these this year, including three this summer on July 12, August 10, and September 9. Super moons can appear to be about 30% brighter and up to 14% larger than the average full moon.

Read more


Faultline, an edgy excerpt

Posted by on Jul 1, 2014 in noKidsAllowed, onWriting | 0 comments

For Linda Watanabe McFerrin, author and teacher
 who inspires the writing of sexy stuff.

 – an excerpt


Urges from frigid ocean

to widen

and spread


toward a naked coast.



Rolls with cells of human debris

Like herds of headless snakes.



Mounts the ridge of wet grass and wood

and spills, goes down on valleys 

of brush and forrest.



swells, and 


the Golden Gate.


Then purple-grey fingers of fog

Silently feel the edges of the Rainbow Tunnel

and settle in secret folds of the Marin Headlands.



Fog hangs like whispers about the clamped windows

of a Sausalito house. 


24 Bunkley Drive


Where Dr John Johns lies, 


 arms in surrender. 


& Heat 

pumps from vents 


  enduring with undulating moans

and spasmodic gasps 


But Dr John Johns 

 merely sleeps 


in his sweat


And Selene, with moist brow

and sizable profile

 Props the refrigerator door with the mound of her hip,

one side of her white T-shirt cinched up


in elastic confines

of sensible underwear.


Slow waves of snoring 

drift from the bedroom 

and lap upon the soft misty glow of muted TV.


The fog horn


A soggy afterthought.


          & Fog



across the bay, where San Francisco is obscured

from the waist down.



Posted by on May 13, 2014 in noKidsAllowed, onWriting | 0 comments


Mother’s Day 2014 had me flaccid-limb supine, wrapped in the tickle of a sun-speckled robe and serenaded by a jay dueling with a nearby chainsaw. Chainsaws and rusty buckets only add to the charm of this place, this piece of warm earth under a watchful row of oaks and one flirty olive tree. This was a rare day of indulgence at a wine country spa and I was planning on an empty mind and a grateful calm.

~~ Buzz-kill alert! ~~

Instead, I thought about this, all day.

This list.

Lo, this list of names, 177 of the 200-plus teenage girls, stolen by a herd of evil on April 14 of this year. Lo, this list of girls who go to extraordinary lengths to get an education, girls who bravely attended a northern Nigerian boarding school to sit exams, and now they are in the process of being sold as wives or slaves, or raped, or both. Or worse.

I have no idea what it’s like to grow up there, and I’m hardly an expert on African politics or teenagers even, or the shit-heads who stole them. I don’t know this kind of trauma, but yesterday, when I read their individual names, they were dear to me.

  What's the point of Tele-Caring?

I debated myself.

  and what would you know of despair in a foreign land?

You’re right. I’m not Lugwa Mutah (number 109). My siblings’ survival did not depend on my ability to work. Education choices came on a platter. But, I was  a teenage girl, and the thought of teenage-me spirited away in the pre-dawn hour, taken from my teenage ups and downs, and thrust into somebody else’s idea of my life – that makes me ill. And I’m not Serah Samual, or Tabitha Helampa, and I never had to worry about being shot or kidnapped as I made my way to school. But I was a high school student on a tenuous path toward a three-dimensional life of my own. The idea of somebody derailing that: boils my brain.

And no, I’m not the mother of any of these beautiful girls, but I am a mother with a child leaning into the teenage years. And I know and love a young lady of sixteen who struggles and applies herself to life and learning.

And thus I am Amila Amoreb’s mother, and Palmata Musa’s mother. And Margret Watsai’s mother . . .

We are, all of us who mother, their mothers.

Aren't we?

Yesterday, on Mothers’ Day, the sun made a halo around each leaf of the olive tree above me. I closed my pampered eyes, ready to be done with thinking, ready for that kind of afternoon sleep that you can only have amidst the vines and when the breeze travels warm.

But sleep did not win. I cursed the list for making me feel useless, guilty.

I couldn’t do much, but I could pull out my iPhone and sign every available petition, like this one: http://chn.ge/RsBWWF. And I did.

It seemed unfair that heaven was with me at the same time as hell broke ground in different parts of the globe. That thought didn’t stop a butterfly from dancing to the top of the fence that framed my view, and posing as the perfect foreground to balconies of green –  sun-lit vines, bearded palms and shadowed mountains. I thought about smashing the butterfly into the elegantly weathered fence, just for being so prim and well, downright narcissistic.

Instead I made peace with the list, and read it again. Each name, a child with a mother.

I didn’t get to an empty mind, or anything resembling calm.

But in the end, I was okay with awake, and grateful.









A Prayer, I Guess

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in noKidsAllowed, onWriting | 0 comments

A Prayer, I Guess


I got still alright
I went within
Calmed a raging mind
And sat in my unthinkable moment
But nothing.
I yelled ‘now what?!’
Blank    nothingness

When the unthinkable happens
It seems, nothing snaps
Or jolts you from the life you had

The trees don’t lean a different way
Or die from the shock of change
In fact 
They shed leaves, as they do, and
New leaves decide it’s just another day, another season
And the racing heart and acid gut are at odds with the rhythm of the planet

That’s when you are supposed to get still
Allthewhile, synapses, like a firing squad,
Shoot down your tidy rows of expectations 
Leaving only the cobwebs of
of dreams
in the space between 
brain,    skull    and spirit


Yet, it was there in the silence
Like the yank of a tooth, or a push off the diving block
Like the keys to the house
The walk down the aisle

It was like those moments, when the vacuum in the unsaid is the nudge of a loving parent
The passing of a torch
Those moments that give meaning to time

The no-answer was all of that, a gift of belief


Pray, watch, share
There will be no sign or message, 
They are everywhere, always 
Find strength in the trees as they grow toward the light
Get to work with the next pulse of season
Take cues from its rhythm

The silence of no-answer
Said I can’t do the work for you
I have watched you grow and blessed you much
Now listen not for a word but an urging
Look not for an answer, but the quest in your question
And I, then, will be still, and listening for you 


a poem from a rainy-day bed

Posted by on Feb 8, 2014 in onWriting | 0 comments

how we lay thee


a high bed, a wide bed

a hide your morning head bed

a messy stressy lumpy crowded

lonely as the moon bed


a reading bed, a romping bed

a softly do we tread bed

a limbs and longing praying sinking

voices in your head bed


a lush bed, a starched bed

a crumbs and sand and scratchy bed

a moat and drawbridge slay the dragon

drool from molten dreams bed


a sick bed, a stuck bed

an anywhere instead bed

an uppy downy stale and moldy

cloud or quicksand end bed


my bed, your bed

a snuggle bed, a snore bed

a lie-in cry-in mess it make it

a chariot for your soul bed

Time Won’t Tell, a poem

Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in onWriting | 0 comments

Time Won’t Tell, a poem
Not frozen, not thawed
Here, waits in line behind
Rushed and Hustled
In time
     I would say
On schedule

Settles in for tea
     with Contented 
     no, Complacent
     and Now
In no time
It’s time enough
And Here unleashes an unruly
     hissy fit
Truly, transformatively,
     spits the dummy

Devours your guests in a hurry of teeth and limbs
Then melts to couch and cushion

Leaving only tea leaves
     An open door
     A motley queue
Longing, Reminiscence and their friend
What’s there to do
but invite them for dinner

Hoping they have other plans
But knowing
     you’d rather not
     eat alone


Beat, Splay, Shove ~~~ A New Year’s Resolution

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in noKidsAllowed, onWriting | 0 comments

Beat, Splay, Shove ~~~ A New Year’s Resolution

I don’t know about you, but I was pretty nice to 2013.

I went with the flow in January, a month as rude as the cold snap was long. I observed and unfolded as February flirted with the Oscars, and change. In breath; out expectation. Politely, I bowed to March, April, May. Grateful through summer, in the moment into fall. Through lay-offs and false starts, I was positively positive, aligned with the rise and fall of the days in the months. In November, I lingered, I did.

Whatever 2013

Yup, I gave it leeway, the benefit of the doubt; cut it some slack. But 2013, all it gave me was another December. It was indifferent. Actually, to be honest, 2013 was a real asshole.

airhockey-300x300Game On!

Two curious things happened yesterday. First, I played air hockey with my daughter when she was done with skiing for the day. Without thinking, I played to let her win. This led to a bored puck that limped side to side, often in the middle of the table where it was out of reach of both of our genetically short arms. Then, while I was trying not to think of the new inches of powder snow I was missing, my darling girl narrowed her eyes, and rammed that puck past my smarting finger and into the slot.

Yeah! (and ouch!), The game: was on.

As an aside, short arms, in my opinion, (and this opinion well-known to many long-armed friends) are evolutionarily superior – look out for my upcoming blog, ‘Evolutionary arm-shortening and custom bidets, a new movement’. Subhead: ‘Is manual bum-wiping falling between the cracks?’


Number Two

The second thing was a dream about Mr Squiggle. Mr Squiggle, in case you didn’t grow up with him as I did, was a dithery, good natured puppet who made art out of squiggles, but sometimes he didn’t. He made scribbles. On those rare moments, I wished Miss Jane would grab his pencil nose and finish the drawing, because I knew he could make art. But not when he dithered.

I woke up several times that night with aching fingers from the vicious game of air hockey we finally enjoyed. In between squiggle dreams, I could only think of the word dither. 2013, I realized, was the year of the dither. And 2013, it was clear, didn’t like me playing nice.

Through all this dreaming and waking, as I often do, I deconstructed the word in a completely non-etymological way. I was stuck on the ‘ither’ part of ‘dither’, and concluded that ‘dither’ was ‘de-ither’. By morning, I knew what I had to do to pick up my game in 2014. I had to learn to ither.

Say What?

You could say ‘ither’ is Scottish for ‘other’. Merriam and Wikipedia would agree. OR, you could, according to my dream-state logic, use antonyms for dither the verb, such as to plunge or dive; more interestingly: to decide, budge, stir, advance, continue. I like ither as a verb. It gives me permission to pound.

Yeah! Game on!

2014 NY resolution #1: ither
My definition of ither (v): to ram oneself into 
the upcoming year in a forthright and non-wavering 
manner. Which leads me to think: 

If linger is the extension of a thought 
or action, the follow-through; 
then ither is the swing of the bat, 
the push of pen on paper, the surge, 
the propulsion.

So I’ve got ithering covered, but what about being ‘in a dither‘? (a highly nervous, excited, or agitated state, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.)

Obviously, I want to be in an ither, not a dither. Merriam’s antonyms to dither (n) give me : a state of aplomb, calm, composure, equanimity, imperturbability, self-possession, tranquility’. Hmm. The verb ither is about aggressive motion but the noun ither describes a state of tranquility. Cryptic.

I can work with that.

2014 NY resolution #2: be in an ither

My definition of ither (n): to be in a state of tranquility while ithering.

So, watch out 2014!

I will likely continue to Eat, Pray, Love, but there’ll be no contemplation without quest, or meditation without motion. I probably won’t really Beat, Splay, Shove, but I will skip mull, mould and maneuver, and go straight to ithering, wherein I’ll ram and pummel the year into the shape I want. All while in an ither.


Happy New Year! My Wish for You

When you plunge, dive, decide, budge, stir, advance, continue, ram oneself into the upcoming year in a forthright and non-wavering, tranquil manner,

~~ play to win, and

~~~~~ make art out of squiggles.


 Mr Squiggle on U-Tube


Linger, I do + 5 Lingerous Luxuries to Calm your Mind

Posted by on Dec 17, 2013 in onWriting | 0 comments

Linger, I do + 5 Lingerous Luxuries to Calm your Mind
To Linger: It's not being in the moment, 
it's not taking a time out. 
To linger is to extend the thought or the action, 
like the follow-through 
     with a bat, a golf club, or a punchline. 

Here was my November quandary: How to deal with the dots on iPhone Calender that make November and December look like Auntie Joan’s bingo card? (She always wins). The plan-and-execute thing has my mind like a shattered kaleidoscope, especially at night. My sentences are truncated to the bare minimum in case I lose my line of thought, again.  And I only have one child. How do people do it all?

The word came to me extraterrestrially – well, it came to me in the theater watching Sandra Bullock manage her own mind in outer space. Her solutions came to her after she stopped her strategizing, when she floated there in what she thought was defeat. She lingered, she did, and her thoughts came to her in their true form.

I told little sis’ on Skype that my holiday mantra was ‘linger’.
“Like being in the moment,” she proferred.
“No. I’m over the moment. I’ve moved on to lingering.”
“Mindfulness then.”
“No,” said I, “But you can be mindful of lingering.”
“You’re weird,” said she.
“Thank you.” And I rolled about in that for a while.

Lingering: is not hanging out in the moment, 
it's the thing that joins each moment to the next, 
it's the glue, the thread, the pull, the attraction, 
the SCIENCE between the moments.

birdsI love watching birds fly in formation. Sometimes they have to flap like crazy to get in line, but once they are part of the V, the thing that holds them together – the air currents, the pressures gradients, their innate sense of space between each other – whatever that is, they are able to flap with a little less freneticism. Coast even. They linger, they do.

Lingerous: it's not mindfulness, 
where you are present in the chewing of food, for example. 
Lingerous is floating for a space-pocket of time, 
after the chewing is done.

Here’s what is helping me this season:

Five Lingerous Luxuries to Calm your Mind

1. When you arrive at any given location, do not get out of the car immediately. You’re late?  Believe me, a late you is better than a late, frazzled you.  Finish the song with your passenger/s, or sit in silence for a second or a minute, or more. Sometimes a second is enough. Sometimes I’ll finish an ♥ Oprah Radio ♥ segment, then linger a little after the car goes through it’s shut down noises. The neighbors are used to my car-sitting.

2. Christmas shopping? Try to convert each gift idea to a book. So instead of visiting a hardware, sporting and ballet store, you can get books on each topic at a lingerously luxurious bookstore. Hold each book for a moment (you have extra time now) and think of the person. You can be in the moment, sentimental, projecting, mindful, envious even – all good, no problems with any of that, but don’t forget to linger.

3. There are people out there. As you check out, get wrapped, plead, wrestle, honk, pass, avoid, collide in the physical world, notice the warm-blooded items you encounter. Stand an extra number of seconds after ‘thank you’, be the last off the plane as the flight attendants drop their guard, hang with the crossing guard, or the fuzzy-haired guy from the third floor, ride the elevator an extra roundtrip. Stop sprinting and see what unfolds.

4. Can’t get to your emails? Feel you need the dedicated head-space to avoid the dreaded email faux pas? Write and reply to all your waiting emails in a mad, unedited dash (flap like crazy) and save each as a draft. Linger over coffee and while in après-coffee lingering mode (coasting), open them one at a time. Do any editing and delete all that are unnecessary.

5. Stare at your iCalendar. Think evil or grateful thoughts – all good – just sit with it in year-mode after scanning its contents. Know that its not you, its just what you have to get done in November and December. Linger over the thought of January, and the months just passed. It’s not being in the moment, or being  mindful, or formally meditative, but stare at it anyway.  Time is the big connector, forward and backwards – roll around in that thought for a while.

Imagine: if you linger after every moment, 
today and every tomorrow, 
you will hit the sweet spot, 
every time.


Celebration, and the Meaning of #stuffYouCanBuy

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in onWriting | 0 comments

Celebration, and the Meaning of #stuffYouCanBuy
The Meaning of Stuff

Yesterday I had some time to waste while my daughter mastered front walkovers and back handsprings. I wandered around Home Depot and posted photos on Facebook, poking a little fun at #stupidStuffYouCanBuy, especially Christmas ‘stuff’. A pig of lights with a Santa vest, Santa-Yoda as a solar powered garden gnome – you know, anything to leverage the consumer-season’s temporary insanity. But the truth is, though I loathe shopping in general and I’m feeling a little Ebenezer this year, I admit: I grudgingly enjoyed the wayward thinking all around me. Watching a scarf-and-vested ‘I’m a Hollywood producer’-type fill his trolley with musical icicle lights, topped by a lighted six foot Santa-giraffe, gave me a lasting giggle. One humming shopper started singing the product labels to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’ and it was seriously contagious. I found myself in the garden section singing ‘Chrysanth-em-ums, note resizednine-ninety-nine, note resizedthree for twenty-five.’

All this #stuffToBuy, is not cleaning up the planet, or feeding a child, but it denotes celebration. I don’t know that I like facebook_like_icon_thumb  that I liked facebook_like_icon_thumb it, but there it is. (Have to use those thumbs-up signs before they’re gone forever, sniff.)


The idea of celebration made me think of Ben, who dropped by to check out our new home in Australia many moons ago. Admiring the  double molding that framed the myriad of louvres, he commented, “I’m glad they bothered.”  That, to me, explains celebration. It’s nothing you have to do, it’s an extra touch, it’s … beyond the call of necessity. The extra molding was a celebration of craftsmanship, perhaps the builders celebrating their love of houses. I’m glad they bothered, too.

Made me go hmmm

On a recent plane trip, I pulled out my journal while noticing the little things women and young girls did with their hair. Then I blithely wrote myself into a puzzled corner, resulting in a long, bloated pause.
I thought, that’s a good question: What celebrates me?

Try and fill in the blank with what celebrates you. It’s an interesting exercise.

You’ll be glad you bothered.



*Ribbons braided into browns, blacks, reds, blondes and grays


                 the simple miracle of hair

*A door mat; hedges, flowers, trees, just so


                   the warmth and welcome of home

*Morning hugs, a patient ear and a table set


                   the honor of parenthood

*[blank ________________________ and blank]


                the simple miracle of me


[mine: teacups on a mountain summit]
[anyone know how to write upside down on a blogpost?]

Oh Where Oh Where

Posted by on Nov 29, 2013 in onWriting | 0 comments

Oh Where Oh Where

Oh where, oh where has my little blog gone?


Oh how you’ve missed me. What happened to that blitherous blog? you say to yourself repetitively, rocking in the corner with your unkept hair and halitosis. Well don’t worry, I’m back, and here are the culprits for my rude silence.  As you will see, it was not my fault.


Seven Completely Valid Reasons for Not Blogging

1. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – I know, what was I thinking? It’s the last day, and I have 10K to go)

– procrastination-Accelerator

2. Kauai

– care-less Incubator

3. Major life crisis

– sleep Annihilator 

4. Tween hormones (not mine obviously, that’s another topic)

– can’t-write-that Side Swiper

5. 7992 blog/post spam messages

– delete-athon Time Waster

6. Daughter’s holiday homework

– patience Ingester

and lastly, but not leastly,

7. “Research”, aka google gone wild
– brain Infiltrator

(incidentally, Wikipedia says that the nursery rhyme/tune ‘Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?’ originated from the German “Der Deitcher’s Dog”, or “Oh Where, oh Where Ish Mine Little Dog Gone” in which there is adulation for lager and sausages. Mm hm. And when pondering sausages and a lost dog, the author concludes,

“Dey makes un mit dog und dey makes em mit horse,
I guess dey makes em mit he.”

Gotta love those twisted nursery rhymes.)

~~Until next time~~

Now go take a shower.



Gritty Grannies

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in onWriting, Parenting | 1 comment

Gritty Grannies

Epigenetics and Me

There was a time, long before I was a mother, when I believed I had been handed the hardiness that comes with generations of struggle. From the whole new-Australian settler thing, back to Ireland and its conflicts and famines. I felt it every time I ate a potato. And I believed that it came from my grandmothers.

Last week, I read a Facebook post on family history and its effect on genes, something called ‘Behavioral Epigenetics’*, an article that uses terms like ‘molecular scarring’ . . . and stuff. It’s about the kind of personality, or psychological tendency, that can be handed down by the sufferings of your genetic up-line. That’s a pretty wild thought. Could somebody’s great-great grandmother’s decade of famine, be a source of their constant hunger? Could the stress of war create PTSD symptoms that are handed down and down and down? Should I tell my daughter to stop stressing and think about what she’s doing to her grandchildren? Could my great grandfather’s distress at being locked in a trunk with bees explain my claustrophobia?  And my Winnie the Pooh-phobia?

The article got me thinking about my grandmothers again, about all the life events twisted into their DNA.

Nan Vincent, the tea-making mother of my mother, cleaned her floors on hands and knees, and speared cane-toads by moonlight (okay, my cousin did that, but she handed him the spear). She weathered the storms of my grandfather’s moods. And after he died, she regularly shlepped buckets and soil, shovel and flowers to his grave, a long, hot walk in the northern Australian sun. And she grew no hairs under her arms. Ever.

During my one, and only, pregnancy, I was sure I was anointed with Nan’s gritty genes.

Then there was my paternal grandmother of sizable stamina, the imposing Grandma Murphy, who sprouted ten children. And though they were short on money, and room on the horse, she was an impressive sight into her eighties, with her waist-length black hair and perfect posture.

I thought of her, too, as my due date approached.

Somebody put a bike pump into my spine and filled it with gravel.

It was a Saturday evening in June, 2003, in Santa Monica California, at the AMC Theater on Third Street Promenade, about twenty minutes into ‘Nemo’, when I got the first contraction. I know how this goes, I smiled, maybe even smirked. I was ready to have this baby by the pure gritting-of-teeth and determination. No drugs. Just me, and my anointed uterus.

Several hours of panting, breathing, yoga poses, partner sacrum massage, and contraction-euphoria later, I announced to Kent (also panting but for different reasons), “It’s time to go!”

Several hours later at Santa Monica Hospital, I was . . . sent home, at less than one centimeter. Expectant nurses waiting to witness my courage and amazon qualities would have to wait another few centimeters.

The next day was a different story. I don’t care to remember the time, or any of the details. The pain was flipping my lid. They tried to send me home again, but I was levitating and hyperventilating. Where oh where had my little dog gone? That kind of thought process, if you follow my madness. I swear, somebody put a bike pump into my spine and filled it with gravel. Every cell was vomiting into other cells and my legs were crawling with under-the-skin fire-ants.

“You are only just one centimeter, honey.”

“What? No!”

Excuse me Doctor, I Love You

The contractions came. I thew everything I’d learnt at the situation. Cat and cow, holy cow! child’s pose, sacrum massage, move, don’t move, walk, pray, swear. Nothing worked. BREATHE. Breathe? I couldn’t belly breathe, I for-sure couldn’t breathe into the pain. Maybe I’d kill the yoga instructor. For sure, I’d kill Kent.

They gave me something that knocked me out for two hours, in between contractions. Kent was much happier, apparently. My reality was one, long contraction, as I death-gripped the rail of the hospital bed. They gave me something to speed up the labor. An aching eternity later, I was a measly  two centimeters, when I spotted a white coat and a beard outside my door.

“Doctor?” I was in between contractions, waving the white flag of wimping-out.

Somehow, I talked him into an early epidural, and soon after, I sat with a monitor on my finger, quizzically watching my contractions on a screen. I told the anesthesiologist that I loved him several times as we waited for the time to push.

 Will talk if tortured

I guess I was nobody’s grand-daughter that day. For a long time after, I couldn’t come to terms with my inability to live up to all of my internal cliches – I didn’t suck it up, see it through, bite the bullet, take it on the chin, grin and bear it – at allIn fact, I’m sure I added ‘panics easily’ and ‘will talk if tortured‘ to my epigenetic coding.

I choose to believe that it was too late to pass the wuss-factor to Savannah, in her final hours in the womb. I choose to believe that, because then I get to sweep that day’s misgivings under the carpet – which is just what my grandmothers would do.

*Discover Magazine, May 2013. Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes