Monday, September 22, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 5 and 6

When I was a child I lived in the desert, the high mountain desert of Wyoming, and spent summers at 10,000 feet in snow and tundra. But somehow, I wanted to grow up and be a dolphin. At first I went through a phase of being very angry that my parents had not named me flipper, then when I talked the two of them, who were both so afraid of water that they held on to the towel rack all the way through their bath, into signing me up for swim lessons, I spent hours swimming underwater, pretending to be the mermaid I knew I would grow up to be. And that was years before Disney showed me there could be redheaded mermaids. Ariel came to the big screen the year I started teaching and I took my first class to the theater to see her.

From there I decided that what I needed to become was a dolphin trainer, working with my beloved animals at Marine Land or sea World.  I know that there has been a lot of negativity toward the idea of the marine mammals being trained and kept captive. I am sure that some of those complaints are justified but I firmly believe that humans only save what they care about, and only care about what they know. I don’t think there would be people making films like Blackfish, or Free Willie, or doing things to try to ban the slaughter in the wild of those incredible creatures, if there had not been a place where children like I was, could press out hands to the glass and see the dolphin making eye contact or see the killer whale begging us to play.
So we have learned, and need to change as we grow, but that does not mean we could have ever gotten to the point of caring without the zoos and Aquariums which turned the animals real in the minds of those of us who care, not just about animals in general but about the death of one specific Orca named Keiko and the happiness of a sealion named Red and the friendship of Flipper.
No, I didn't grow up to be a dolphin or a Mermaid or even a dolphin trainer, but I teach children every bit as funny as Flipper and I live by the Sea, and more than once I stood eye to eye with Keiko and shared a glimpse of similar souls

this picture, for my brothers birthday back on August 27 Is the one that made me decide to spend this month with old stories and old family pictures.

My parents were sure that they could never conceive another child after I was born, and then one day asked me what I thought of the idea of a baby in the family. I thought having a little sister would be wonderful and told them so. I hadn't known that the reason I had been having a babysitter once a week was because they were attending pre adopt meetings. At that time adoptions were very secretive things and babies were placed far from their family of birth. So we had to drive nine hours to pick up the six month old baby boy. My brother was adopted when he was 6 months old and I was almost 5. I remember driving clear across the state with my parents to pick up my new brother. Actually I was convinced it would be a girl, and when the social worker heard me ask where the girl was, she pulled out his picture and showed me, and said, "I guess we have to find another home for this boy then" and I remember screaming at her as I stared at the photo, "Don't you dare give my brother away."
 I gave up the idea of a sister as soon as I saw his picture and fell in love.

The worst part for me was that my Dad’s big sister came to see the baby and decided that a new baby and my long hair were too much work for my mom, and gave me a pixie cut. I hated it and soon started school where I became known as Pixie-Dixie but wasn't allowed to grow out my hair for a few years.

I did love having a baby brother. But we hadn't had him long before he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and children were not allowed in as visitors. I wasn't happy that they took my baby away, and even angrier when mom bought him a stuffed panda. I cried and begged and got her to give it to me. So then she bought another, this one in powder blue and pink to take to him in the hospital. My panda still gives me a twinge of guilt - even knowing that sibling rivalry is common and knowing that little girl was missing her brother and being the center of her parents attention - I still cringe about trying to steal the toy from a sick baby.

When we first brought him home, he became hysterical at night. The social worker only told us it was because he had been used to sleeping in a crib with two other babies. I was never sure if that meant he had been a triplet or merely that there were a lit of babies in his pre adopt foster home

Now 46 years later, and the mom of an adopted boy myself - I can say adoption is a wonderful way to build a family.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 3 & 4

So here you see the animal print clothing Mom loved to dress her “little Pebbles” in – although I was rowdy enough at times to remind her more of Bam Bam.  When I was a toddler we lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming and one of the things my parents loved to do was go out hiking. There are a lot of lovely places around there and one of them is the amazing rock formations around Vedauwoo.  I remember riding on my Dad’s shoulders, but I also remember Mom and Dad taking a hold on each of my wrists and telling me to jump, and then they would fly me between them for several yards before lightly landing me on my feet and I’d beg “again.”
I didn’t have any siblings. Mom had a miscarriage 8 months before I was born. And then even though she was only 24 when I was born, she went into early menopause and it looked like my parents would be my only playmates. 
Well I found a playmate in the big Airdale dog next door.  He was a vicious guard dog, who loved me, but if I got over and under his belly, Mom had to wait until his owners returned because he’d threaten anyone else who came near me.
And then when I was 2 we moved back to my Mom’s hometown of Cody, Wyoming to be close to her parents.  It was actually Dad’s idea, because he had so many siblings but mom was an only child and he wanted her parents to be around their only grandchild.
My parents were really good parents, but they were not perfect.  Mom had never been around babies and became depressed and convinced that a child could never love her. She had a rough time for a couple of years, and I grew up both afraid of, and in love with her.  Dad had a sense of play, a great sense of humor and a strong work ethic, but he also was raised in Pittsburgh, PA in a time when racist language and prejudice were not even questioned.  He named our black poodle, that “N word” and balled Brazil nuts “N…..Toes” and told racist jokes about every nationality and race including his own, Polish Jokes, Hungarian Jokes, Mexican, Asian, Black – he was very willing to laugh and tell stereotyped stories about everyone.  You would never hear him doubting the “stereotype that ______ do not value life like we do”

And yet . . . everytime he met a person from another background or culture, he was polite and friendly and then surprised. Everyone he met was an exception to the stereotype – and he never quite realized that by making friends with his diverse co-workers, and telling us, “____is Bad –except this one” he was really reaching us that all stereotypical judgments are not to be trusted and individuals can surprise you in good ways.

My Dad was born on September 4, so today is his birthday. I’d love to bake him a yellow cake with bananas and fudge frosting but he died of esophageal cancer on Feb. 1, 1997.
In this collage there is me, and my Dad with me riding high. Then my Dad in a cowboy hat holding a longhorn and petting our sheep dog as he helped my Grandpa, Mom’s Dad sell horns and Antlers to tourists coming to Yellowstone park from off a black pick-up truck in the summer.  Then there is a much older, Dad/Grandpa reading to my two boys, and two pictures of mom and Dad. Then there is my dad as an adolescent and the curly haired picture his brother Walt tried to destroy because he hated that his baby brother looked like a girl.

Dad was many things in his life, a baseball fan raised close to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A Genius who was so poor he had to go to a technical high school and then into factory work although he could win Jeopardy and know about every subject.  Unlucky, he got drafted and had already lost a brother on Okinawa and had his Dad blinded by mustard gas in service – but also lucky, he became a morse code operator who ever after could type over 100 words a minute and survived his military time to move to Wyoming and marry my Mom.
They were oddly suited to each other, and fought a little but mainly got along very well.  He worked at a sawmill, and fought forest fires and worked in a wall board factory. Always he made little more than minimum wage and benefits only cane at the last job he had, but he provided a happy childhood to my brothers and I.

He always loved Babies and wanted to be a grandpa, but his first three grandkids were born in between March 29, 1993 and April 16, 1994 and then he died just a couple years later.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 1 & 2

     My Mom loved the Cartoon about the Flintstones. And in January of 1963 when Wilma announced she was pregnant, so was my Mom. And when Wilma had a red headed daughter in march, my Mom was hanging on every episode and wishing shed would have a red headed daughter too, but her hair was black and my Dad was a brunette, so even though I had redheaded relatives, she didn’t think it would happen.

     I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming on July 9, 1963 into a world that still had JFK.  My Mom wasn’t due for delivery until the end of August, and the baseball “All Stars Game” was on TV.  It was a Tuesday and my Dad wanted to watch the game, so when my Mom told him it was time to go, he kept saying, “can you wait until the end of the game?”  She did, but by the time the National League won 5-3 she was getting angry.

     They got to the hospital and the Dr. tried to touch her and she screamed at him to keep his hands to himself. She says she knew that the moment she relaxed, it would be over and if he touched her, she would tense up.  I was born within 15 minutes of arrival.

     I was yellow and redheaded and soon my Mom heard a Dr. in the hallway saying,  “kids like that would be better off if someone would line them all up and shoot them.”  But no-one would tell her what was wrong.

     Two days later they wanted to send us home and she kept saying, “No she is too yellow.” But they tried to tell her it was just a redheads complexion. She threw a fit and they did a blood test and freaked out. Suddenly I had to have a complete blood transfusion and my blood was too messed up to type so they gave me 2 ½ times my blood volume of type O-  I had ABO hemolytic disease of the newborn but it had only recently been discovered and no one there had treated it before.  They say I would have died jut a couple years before.

     And yet I lived, and they named me Dixie Dawn.  My Dad had had a dream that he had a daughter name Dixie Anne but he didn’t want my initials to be DAM.  My Mom was happy to have a girl as redheaded as Pebbles and often dressed me in animal print clothing with a ponytail on top of my head.

     My first memory, it is more a blend of sensations than a memory.  I remember something that must have happened over and over, and that I watched repeated with my brothers and my children so that those memories blended with and reinforced my own older memories.  I remember my Dad, young, loud and bearded – with hair I could grab fistfuls of when he lifted me in the air overhead.  I remember that he loved playing with babies and I remember the specific sensation of giggling until I was gasping for breath and my stomach hurt and still begging for more as he made faces and blew raspberries and bounced me on his knee.  I remember him holding both my hands over my head as I toddled and then a few years later I remember gripping his fists and walking up his legs and doing a skin-the-cat through my arms.  I remember holding myself stiff as a board while I lay at his feet on the floor, and he bent over with his hands under my shoulders and raised me to a stand without me ever bending in the middle, and that felt like a victory.  The “planking” win – before “planking” was a thing. I remember him calling me “Charlie and pretending to steal my nose, and pretending to pop out his eyeball to clean it, and making his cheek pop with a quick jerk of his finger or his nose break by making the noise with his fingernails against his teeth.  He knew a hundred ways to entertain a baby but I was never sure who taught him.

     Dad was only 7 when his Mom died of kidney failure, and he was the next to the youngest of a dozen children, and his oldest sister had a couple of her own already but helped raise all the little-uns too. So I know there were a sister and brother-in-law and his Dad, all working hard and pinching pennies, and there were a lot of kids with the responsibility of even younger kids – but someone knew how to do it right and make the very smallest ones feel safe and loved and surrounded by laughter. And my Dad passed that on.

     I remember that every little thing could be a toy, so if there was a piece of string he could cut it in two, tie a knot, sprinkle it with invisible, ground up horse-feathers (wiffle dust) from his pocket and unwrap it to prove it was uncut and the knot had vanished. He would grab a brown paper lunch bag and toss an invisible ball in the air but the bag would pop when he caught the ball in it. He would plunk me in an empty cardboard box and slide it back and forth between my mom and him in the long hallway, and I’d giggle as they played “monkey in the middle,” because I was the monkey and what they were catching.  He had to know how to make toys of nothing because in his childhood, nothing is exactly how much extra they had to spend on toys.
I remember being loved.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 books that stayed with you

Every now and then it comes around again on facebook, the request for a list of ten books that you remember.  This morning there it was again, this time from an author I respect and enjoy, Clint Brill Author of Pure Control

He wrote on facebook
"In your status, list 10 books that stayed with you in some way. Don't think too hard. They don't have to be the "right" books or great books of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I can see your list.
Here's my list:
1. Bio of a Space Tyrant: Mercenary by Piers Anthony
2. For Love of Evil by Piers Anthony
3. The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
4. Storming Heaven by Kyle Mills
5. Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
6. Icebound by Dean Koontz
7. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
8. Mine by Robert R. McCammon
9. Bronze Star by Donald E. Zlotnik
10.Lord of the Flies by William Golding"

So I am including my list on facebook but decided that it was a good subject for an update here as well

Ten books that remain with me
1.  Ingathering: The complete People Stories by Zenna Henderson
2. Harry Potter (well of Course) and since they basically go without saying I'll do a 2 series for one and throw in the Narnia books as well
3. Ghost Boy by Iain Lawrence
4.  Mere Mortals by Neil Ravin
5. Christy by Catherine Marshall
6. Somebody Else's kids (or any other book about her teaching Sp. Ed) by Torey Hayden
7.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
8.  Trixie Belden (all  my Jr. high days one of this series was with me)
9. Look out for Pirates by Iris Vinton
for teaching me to love adventures and to solve problems with brainpower  
and last but most important to little ole me
10. All the books I write which would never have come into being without all the books I read or had read to me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

It's all in what you look for

So many things in life are really all about perspective - 
I live in a drafty, termite eaten old barn of a place - 
I have a wonderful, home filled with color and love

Both true statements

Bad House
 One of the saddest realities is that we never know when our lives are at their peak. Only after it is over and we have some kind of perspective do we realize how good we had it a day, a month, five years ago. Jonathan Carroll

I like to think that I have changed that, that I have been aware of the beauty and love and wonder around me, in the moments that I had it. and honestly that started for me, when my brother was born with Down's syndrome when I was 12 years old. I kept hearing proclamations of doom, 
"He'll never sit up" 
"Your family will be better off if they don't get attached to him." 
Even my optimistic Grandmother looked at him with tears and said "He'll have a tough row to hoe."

But I sat on the couch and rested his feet against my belly and his head by my knees and marveled at the way he laughed and met my eyes when I made silly faces, and I thought, even if his life is hard, and my life is miserable, it was worth being born just for this one happy, peaceful moment.

And both of us have had good, often wonderful lives.

Good House
 I love the best features of my house, and this could fool you into thinking it was all wonderful, but if you like the sunny side only, don't look at the pictures in the first collage

Great Yard
I couldn't show the Good and the Bad of our house and not show why we moved here in the first place, because of the 2 acres it sits on.

three good things
1. campfires with friends
2. Apples, plums, pears and blackberries for us and the deer and bear
3. sunflowers and dandelions and birds

When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It's all a matter of perspective.
Harvey Mackay

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Celebrating July 4th in Crescent City, CA

 It isn't only that I am one of the lucky ones with a July Birthday that makes me love this month more than any other.  I am a bit of an introvert at most times, a watcher rather than a participant. I record life in my photographs and writings, but I love to be surrounded by LIFE in its beauty, glory and noise.  Come to think of it, that is why I married my active, beautiful, noisy musicman.
 So I go to parades and am delighted to see many of my former students and to grey co-workers and friends ad socialize without having to clean my house first. Well, I am better about that since Flylady convinced me to do all that work in baby steps and avoid crisis cleaning

 And I love vivid, bright colors and art, so the pastels in the park are eye candy to me.

 But most of all, I love the friendship and earth and energy at Beachfront park by the Battery Point Lighthouse when the fireworks get going. I know there are a ton of illegal fireworks blasting off from every direction and a lot of rowdy people around bonfires and a lot of noise.  There is so much laugher and joy and somehow I feel my Dad's spirit with me, handing me the lit punk and guiding my hand as I lit my first ever firecrackers and roman candles and teaching me that celebrations matter.

 My own children are grown and amaze me and are worth celebrating. I so wish my Dad could have watched them grow, because there is so much there he would be proud of.

 Then of course July means the Smith River and Camping and Family and friends and in Crescent City it also means fog and Drive-in movies and doing free things a lot because there is no paycheck for this teacher's family from June to September.  There is odd jobs and writing and beauty though, and I get to grow another year better.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Laughing Song of Greyback

Rereading Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog to try and keep the book I'm working on consistent 

 With the last day of school on June 12, and a clean-up of the classroom on June 13, I was free to concentrate again on my writing and the other aspect of being Dixie Dawn Miller Goode.  Teacher by day and from September through June and writer whenever and wherever I can fit it in. And before either of those, Wife, Mom, daughter, friend.  I love the complicated life we are blessed with.
 One of the great Joys of summer is time to live outdoors and feel my world expand, one of my favorite places to do that has always been at a primitive car camping site by Oregon Caves, primitive meaning no showers or flush toilets or electricity, hauling water and yet also meaning very few other people and ample choice of beautiful sites even when there on a weekend.

 So when one of our best friends sent a text to my husband asking if we would want to meet them there for a couple days camping, we basically didn't hesitate to scream "YES!"

 Greyback reminds me of William Blake's Songs of Innocence
 In Particular,

 "The Laughing Song"

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy, 
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by; 
When the air does laugh with our merry wit, 
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it; 

when the meadows laugh with lively green, 
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene, 
When Mary and Susan and Emily 
With their sweet round mouths sing "Ha, ha he!" 

When the painted birds laugh in the shade, 
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread: 
Come live, and be merry, and join with me, 
To sing the sweet chorus of "Ha, ha, he!" 

 another fitting quote

Never make your home in a place.

 Make a home for yourself 

inside your own head.

 You'll find what you need to furnish it

 - memory, friends you can trust,

 love of learning, and other such things.

That way it will go with you wherever you journey.

Tad Williams

I love that this man never says "No" when I ask him to stop whatever he is doing and come to play

Friends who are more family than almost anyone

So the first official day of summer caught me right where I needed to be, and reminded me that we need to say "YES!" to Laughing and Playing and Friends.

I can write anywhere.  Where should I set up my tent next?