Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Greetings from around the world. I hope

My Beautiful Brother turns 39 years old on Friday, Oct. 24th and I was thinking, he loves getting mail and he is worried with our mom being in the Nursing Home and he would be so happy to get a post card, birthday card or printed letter. He can read but cursive is difficult.

The mailing address is

Lance Miller 
PO Box 865
Middleburg VA 20118

He loves the Steelers and any sports, He Loves red cars, the teenage mutant ninja turtles and Donald Duck. He still loves fruit punch more than any other drink but maybe hot fudge sundaes at Dairy Queen beat it out as the all time first choice. Back when they lived in Cody, Wyoming, the Dairy Queen closed for the winter, but the owner actually postponed the closing and kept it open each year so Lance could have his annual birthday party there first.  Lance has the most amazing social skills and people love him. He was in Special Ed. classes for his academic subjects but interacted in regular classes for PE, he loved swimming and bowling, and he Loved Choir, and still does like to sing and still recognizes and talks to people he knew back in those classes.  He called the Bingo games at the senior center and served as an usher at the church he attended with mom.  He started working at WalMart as a part of a school program when he was 15 but he stayed there 19 years, until he had to move to Virginia to live with our brother when my Mom's health became weaker. He started grade school the year the mainstreaming law passed and my mom insisted Cody start a class. And he graduated high school with a real diploma eight months before Dad died of esophageal cancer.

  1. Being born with a handicapping condition wasn't as difficult as having to deal with people who had a lot of preconceived ideas about his limitations  I remember the idiots in the hospital who delivered him telling my parents he should be institutionalized before we could ever get attached because he'd never know who we are and he'd be dead before 25. Medical views of what was, at that time, called "mongoloid idiots" were pretty much in the dark ages. Over the years Mom had a Dr try to kill him by letting Giardia run its course until he had lost half his body weight and his hearing. Then when she made it clear that "no, his dying would not be the best thing for the family" one shot of penicillin cured the Giardia but not the deafness until surgery five years later. 

Then after an accident in the park with his puppy jumping up as he came down the slide, and tearing the skin on his arm with it's claw - an emergency room Dr. strapped him down at age six and started putting stitches in him arm without numbing it, "I don't want to waste the novocain, these kids don't feel pain, he is just screaming from reflex"

Well that might have been the Dark ages or this might be. 90% of Down's infants are aborted once it is diagnosed and in some countries it is legal to abort a Down syndrome baby right up to birth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Last 4 posts of Autobiographical Challenge

Becoming Men Collage

Life changes fast when your children are only a year apart. You have two babies and then you have none. You live at the grade school and then you never go back. Two high school students consume your life and then the house is empty.

Suddenly the boys are men, and unlike the teens I knew, are full of smiles and laughter and easy hugs. They have women in their lives and one has a child. Now I am dong other things than being a Mom, but being a Mom was the biggest joy of my life and watching the boys turn men, and my husband and I turn into grandparents has been amazing. Sometimes I feel too lucky, scared that everything I ever had on my bucket list has been accomplished so what comes next? I knew I needed new goals, “me goals” or I would turn reclusive and never be able to pry myself out of the house.

Well Hello, Baby

No matter what you think you want from your life or when you expect it to happen, there are some things that take you by surprise and demand their own timeline and insist on happening, not according to your plan but JUST RIGHT NOW.
Our babies were like that, not even close to when we planned to have children, so why would we expect our granddaughter to be any more cooperative. Daisy didn’t arrive on anyone’s schedule but her own. Yet like some of the best gifts that life gives you, her arrival, surprise that it was, filled us with joy and laughter and hope for the future. All those wonderful gifts that babies have been bringing to the world since time began came with this little girl.
It is nice to be reminded tht there is nothing in the world so important that it can’t be set aside for a moment, or a month or a year, while you ignore everything but the chance to make tiny lips smile and tiny eyes crinkle and tiny lungs burst into giggles. When time slows down, in that old, ordinary way, Life can be extraordinary.

Author Presentation

Here I am, in front of a classroom like I have been many times since becoming a student teacher, then a teacher, then a substitute teacher. Now a writer and story-teller. Now I am not telling kids that they have to pass a test to succeed in someone else’s definition. I am telling them that they can define what success is and reach for their own dreams. I am telling them that if the bullied and terrified girl can grow up and talk to rooms full of children, and if the shy, bookworm can turn those early crayon illustrated notebook “Novels” into published books, and convince school districts to use them to teach from, then they can also find a way to share the things they love with the world. I tell them they may never get rich doing what they love, and they may need another job to put food on the table and a roof over their head, but that they should never give up on doing the things that make them feel glad to be alive. I tell them that if you find something that delights you and makes you interested, other people will be interested and delight in it too. It’s all about recharging your energy so you have energy to help recharge our darkest days and let the rest of the world see how beautiful it can be just to share this big blue planet with each other.

Finding The New Trail

Well, when we first met, we were half the people that we are now. Finding someone I could love this much when I was just 18 is a pretty rare and amazing thing and I never take it for granted for a moment. We had so many dreams that we used to talk about as we carpooled to those first college classes back in 1982 and the strange thing is that all of those dreams have come true. We have raised two incredible young Men, we have travelled and taught and loved and fought and made up and kept going. Now we are back where we started, a couple on our own, in the uncharted waters, for us, of dealing with aging parents with weaker by the day, health issues and new grandchildren, and sons who didn’t see us as perfect parents and so have to learn to be their own guides now. We have had to go through another lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas even more depressing than the ones just after we got married. We had to go camping with just us, and find conversation through 3,000 mile road trips without anyone interrupting. We still have less stability than we should, we are in debt and not seeing a way to keep up on the maintenance that out old house and cars need. We have moments of being scared and lonely and wondering what the future holds, but every night when I drift off to sleep I still hear him breathing beside me, and that makes everything good. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 25 & 26

You can make me be here (but you can't make me smile)

When I look at this picture, so many other pictures flash through my mind that I’m pretty sure the words which follow will fail to capture them. We are standing on the balcony of Cabin 1A in Gold Beach, Oregon at a place called Ireland’s Rustic Lodges. When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 When Greg and I first left Wyoming and Moved to Ashland Oregon in 1984, we found this little Coastal getaway and when we were hired to teach in Crescent City it seemed almost too close to be a real escape, only 50 miles from home, but we kept going.
You see, that first year away from Wyoming, Thanksgiving was miserable. No family in a thousand miles and no friends yet. The two of us tried being cheerful at the community Thanksgiving dinner but the sense of being disconnected from family really hurt. We knew we needed to create our own traditions. So when we found a little cabin clustered on the beach, with firewood stacked on the porch and a fireplace inside as the only heat source and no phones – we thought it was the perfect place to rent for the long weekend. It became our tradition to cook Turkeys in the kitchen and watch the sunset over the Pacific as we ate.
Over the years, everyone came to join us. My parents were there a couple times, my brothers, my brothers-in-law and nephews and sisters-in-law and friends from Germany and friends from Wyoming and Ashland. We were in one of the cabins when we got a knock on the door from the office manager giving us a message to call and discover that our son’s birth mom was in labor and later we were there when Mom called and a knock sent us to the payphone to fid out that my Dad had died at 8 minutes after midnight. We came with out youngest son, straight out of the Neonatal intensive care unit for some uninterrupted family recovery time. We painted rocks with the boys and their cousins and left them in the flower garden, and we were there when my husband’s sister came back from Africa and gave all 4 nephews spears which they brandished around the cabin while making forts of the couch cushions and twin size mattresses.
This picture was about the last time we were there, maybe the last time. The cabins were sold to the neighboring motel and the fireplaces came out, a hot tub went in, electric heat was added and the boys began having their own separate lives where a long weekend couldn’t interrupt the jobs they needed to pay their rent. There was a bit of loss of amusement at Mom and Dad’s sense of humor going on in those last high school years, and a resentment at having to leave girlfriend’s even overnight. There were scrabble games and beach walks and a sense that there would be a few years before the appeal of family Thanksgivings returned to the boys, but I already anticipate bringing a granddaughter here, and painting rocks and baking pies.


Goode-Stock 2010

My husband’s family has spread world wide and at various times had jobs and lives in The Netherlands, Aruba, China, India, Hawaii, Boston and so on. They don’t get together often enough but on the tens anniversary of the parents they make a huge deal. 2010 was the 60th anniversary and we rented a campground, usually used by scouting or church groups, in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I am not topless. Unfortunately the light beige top I had on photographs very much like skin tone for me.
The Goode family is rowdier and louder by far than the family I grew up in, and when they do get together it becomes a party. We had a lake and kayaks, we had a lot of cabins and a big camp kitchen and hiking and a big fish fry and one night a string banjo band came with dancing and it was mostly fun. We were about 40 miles from the parents home and my MIL was in a nursing home by then. So my FIL came up in the days but when home at night and we all went in at various times to visit Mimi. It was wonderful except when it got bad and then it got bad very fast. You could say it turned bad like “lightning.”
On top of the highest hill was a group fire ring with a knee high stone wall around the fire pit. It was probably 10 feet across, and a lot of large wooden benches circled it. Near-by was a large group hall that we had keys to but had never accessed. Thin but tall evergreens towered above the clearing. Some of the adults had been drinking and everyone was relaxed and happy. The granddaughter brought out her guitar and the grandsons were mostly talking and playing with hand held games or phones. A couple family dogs had joined us. There was a light flurry of rain but not heavy enough to dampen the spirits of anyone. Then suddenly an explosion as lightning concussed the air only feet above our heads. A dead silent moment as the hair on our arms and heads sizzled and eyeglass frames grew hot. Then screams and running, dogs vanishing into the woods, people diving for cars or running to the empty hall. We stood inside listening to the storm grow heavy and then hail splatted around us ad then a calm. We hesitated but moved back out to the fire ring, reluctant to head to the cabins just yet.
One of the childless uncles, drunk and scared and irritated all at once climbed into the stone wall and kept turning to dry his clothing over the bonfire and staggering a bit and snapping as various people tried to tell him to get out. Then a nephew came close, texting his girlfriend, and the uncle thought he’d had too much time wired in. The Uncle kicked at the hand holding the phone, and fell, reaching out to break his fall and jamming the hand between two burning logs. As everyone moved at once, he was pulled out and stared at the blistering and peeling skin and swore it didn’t hurt. Emergency room, 20 miles away with him insisting he didn’t need it. 

Anyway, it was a reunion we haven’t forgotten, four years after the oldest sister died of heat stroke in the Grand Canyon, and 6 months before the oldest nephew died walking home from the grocery store when he stepped in front of a train. MIL and FIL were still doing ok when we saw them again this summer and the burned hand has recovered and life, it goes on.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Autobiography Challenge: Day 23 & 24

After Dad's Funeral

This one, the story is in the silence and the gaping hole where no one stands behind us.

Guatemala Collage

After my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, both Mom and Dad's worlds narrowed down, until the hospital bed in the living room became their universe. Mom wouldn't allow any help except my brother, no nurses or hospice, and so when my Dad did die, everything that her being had focused on for just under a year, was suddenly gone too.

Gradually she began to change and grow and be open to new adventures again, so that 6 years after his death, when she called and asked me if I would meet her and my brother Lance in Guatemala with my two boys, if she bought the tickets, I wasn't too surprised. Greg couldn't go because of work, but it would just mean pulling the boys from the last week of their 2nd and 3rd grade school years.

As a teacher, I am supposed to believe that missing school is horrible - but the last week of school is a lot of running outside with assistants and parent volunteers doing field days while the grades are done and the classrooms readied for summer. This seemed like an experience that would give them a lot more than just staying in school an extra week.

There were some safety issues, the previous year the group had had their bus blocked by piles of burning tires and groups of protesters. less than 10 years ago the Town we were visiting had a massacre of the very Mayan tribe we were going to be helping rebuild cement homes with. Now they were officially an independent zone where the Spanish Guatemalan Army would give them autonomy, but still . . . It was my "babies" I was taking there. We were warned to never talk to the children because parents were very fearful that we might kidnap them.

We went, by plane to Houstan and then Guatemala City, and by painted old school bus to Panajachel, and by motorboat across the lake and through the bullrushes to Santiago, Atitlan. Then they told us the building we were to help build had just been completed and asked if we would mind volunteering at a Mayan school for the week. It was perfect for us. We shared pictures and songs and games that needed no words with children who spoke Mayan at home but Spanish at school. Every day we feasted on wonderful fruits and by the time we were ready to go home my Mom was wearing the hand woven Mayan Skirt and my sons had friends and an adopted "grandma"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 21 & 22

Going to the snow

Once I had children and was still teaching, one of my favorite things was to create field trips that my students and my children could all participate in. I grew up in Wyoming where I thought I would never want to see the snow again, but now I live at sea level and almost never get snow. One of the best field trip opportunities was to drive up 40 minutes and 4,000 feet to the snow park and take the whole crew sledding. When you don’t really have seasons beyond cool rain and warm rain, snow becomes a magical element. The snow park gets feet of snow instead of inches and it has an old wooden cabin with a woodstove for public use, so we always brought jugs of water and hot chocolate powder for a warming break. No one here really has winter clothing but for one snowy afternoon we could make due with rain gear and layers of sweaters and mittens that soaked through instantly. It was cold there, so the snow almost always had a crust and was too solid for snow angels, but there would be speedy downhill runs and enough powder scraped up to make a few snowballs.

This picture shows the kind of teacher I always strive to be, one who teaches joy and self confidence and Children, instead of one who teaches Math and grammar and rules, Of course we cover those too but I believe a child with joy and confidence will love to explore and learn.

My Parents visiting

Once we moved to the coast, my parents came to visit every year, driving 1300 miles to get here. There are no direct routes between their home and mine and it is 400 miles further in the winter than in the summer due to the closure of some roads, like the road through Yellowstone Park.
I adopted their first grandchild 17 days before my brother’s wife gave birth to a daughter, and a year and a day later my second son was born. And a year and a half later my brother’s son. The grandparents loved being grandparents and came as often as they could, but they also loved the coastal redwoods area and enjoyed climbing on the rocks and exploring the forest paths.
When my boys were old enough to climb the rocks, Dad came one last time and raced them to the top of a huge sea stack, but had already had major cancer surgery and within two months would be unable to stand up from the couch where he would lay, in a somewhat strange state, suspended between being able to sleep or being able to stay awake.
If anything can be learned from my stories, I hope it is this – that no matter how long you have your loved ones, it is never long enough, so spend every moment you can, being aware how much you love them.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 19 & 20

Daycare Family

Some people come into your life just when you need them the most and you can’t imagine life ever being as good without them. Grandma Nadine and Papa Dale are those people for us. They are not my children’s grandparents but yes they are.
When we adopted Austin, and the maternity leave ran out and I was looking at going back to work as a full time teacher, a lovely lady we knew told us a long story of her son’s daycare. There was a small farm, with a husband and a wife running a 6 child daycare, and the story involved the Grandma taking the kids fishing in the irrigation ditch and at the end of the adventure distracting the boy until she could slip a trout she had bought, dead at the grocery store, on the boys line. He pulled it in and danced around in the thrill of success and eventually carried it all over the apple orchard and carrot patch and showed it off to everyone before begging her to cook it for lunch. She slipped the hot, muddy fish in the compost and cooked up some frozen fishsticks and the boy bragged about that fish for months.
I was so delighted when grandma Nadine had an opening for my 6 week old. And she asked me to buy him cloth diapers to keep there because she loved hanging freshly laundered diapers on the clothes line in the sun. She was a relic from another time, but 21 years later is still around. I loved her energy and creativity and joy and compassion. She added in my second son a year later, and as all our blood relatives were 1300 miles away, the daycare kids and grandparents were the most real family the boys knew. She wasn’t exactly honest. She got them to eat the ham on their salad by telling them she had taken her shotgun and killed the screaming bird next door and it was smoked peacock.
She also fed them possum and rattlesnake and amazingly bowls of caviar (banana oatmeal.) But most importantly she nourished their imagination and their bodies. Imagine Me, the sugar addict, stunned by my son begging for “broccoli Stalks” and beets. No wonder she could take two, two year olds on her lap and rise from sitting crosslegged on the floor without using her hands at age 75! The pictures show her, long after they were out of daycare surrounded by some of “her kids” at a weekend gathering, in the same spot the picture on the right was taken during the daycare days. In the older picture the boy in Yellow is my oldest. He is bottom right in the newer shot and his brother is snuggled beneath her left arm on the right of the picture

Sandcastle Days

Having two sons, only a year apart was often difficult and we were exhausted because the youngest never slept more than an hour until he was two – and probably not then. I always suspect he just started entertaining himself by telling himself stories in silence.
It was also the most joy filled time of our lives up until that point. We frequently remarked, “we’ve never been tireder or happier.”
I had a lot of toddler experience. I’d been a big sister and had taught pre-school through age 7 special education for ten years, but my husband, the youngest of six – took to playing with the boys as if it was what he had been born to do. He never wanted to go anywhere without them, and we did a lot of playing in the local parks and beaches and going to family swim twice a week.
I know we were not perfect parents but it was something we both loved doing. I read stories and sang to them and let them make big splashy paint and playdough messes while I led the way. Greg let them be daredevils and pushed them really high on the swings and encouraged them to ride bikes and scooters and jump off rocks and climb trees.
When there were tears we both came running and we each took a year off to stay at home with them. Being thirty when we got the boys and being fairly stable in our job and relationship made us have it easier, but there were a lot of moments when it was the parents crying too. It was hard, and I could have focused on the times they were both vomiting and having diarrhea, or fighting with each other, or teething and screaming all night. I could focus on the day they came running in to announce that they had washed the fire truck, and I found the paint scraped from my van with river rocks to the tune of a couple thousand dollars. But I had waited so long to have a child and could feel the relentless passing of time as they grew while you watched them and my Dad was dying as they were 2 & 3 so I was reminded to get through the rough spots and hold on to all the joy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Autobiographical Challenge: Days 17 & 18


I love teaching. But I don't have a lot of pictures that I feel Ok putting on-line. If the pictures are recent I don't want to use them, and as a special Education teacher, I don't want any that might label a particular child as being part of my Special Education Program. This is from a year that was difficult in many ways. I had two toddlers, and my Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April of 1996 and Died on Feb. 1, 1997. Also the schools were overcrowded and the principal had decided that making my classroom open up and also have Mrs. Horn's kindergarten in the room with us, was a great idea. It was loud and rowdy with always some student throwing objects or having explosive temper tantrums, and it was hard to communicate effectively while the room was filled with children needing attention. My principal was frustrated that I took a week off three times during that year to fly to Wyoming to my parents home, and when he decided to combine the rooms, he gave two other teachers substitutes to come into my classroom and sort my supplies to make room for the new room, without telling me until I had started class that day, when he brought them in and told them to do whatever they needed in the cupboards. He also made sure to transfer me to a middle school Severely Emotionally Disturbed Classroom when I came back the following year after 10 years in preschool. And he sent multiple copies of every memo about my desk being disorganized or my lesson plans incomplete or . . . on and on.

Needless to say, I couldn't stand that man, but fortunately I haven't seen him for years. As always, the good part of teaching was the time spent with kids, and in spite of the way we were thrown together, Mrs. Horn and I had many good months with this group of children and our assistants. We did a lot of art and field trips and having themselves immersed in a room of "Regular Children" stressed my kids but also stretched them.

I think I never quite recovered from this year. I took the next year off to stay home with my boys and then my husband took the year after that off. then I quit being a full time teacher and have substituted ever since, although subbing and writing has been wonderful and allowed me to spend a lot of time being Mom, as the boys were growing up, I know financially we would be in a much more secure place if I hadn't stopped teaching full time. I don't regret the choice I made, but I regret making it out of exhaustion and harassment instead of out of confidence and a plan.

April 1994

Because I had gone through menopause at 20, like my mother did when she had me at 24, I knew I couldn't get pregnant, but 10 years after we got Married, we managed to adopt a 14 hour old baby boy. When the adoption agency called to ask if we would be interested in a newborn, we said Yes, but when is the birth Mother due, and they said

Two Weeks Ago.

So then we had our son and it was instant love, and every moment revolved round how lucky and happy we were. And six months flew past, and we were to finalize the adoption in front of a judge but first we needed a physical for the baby to prove that he was thriving in our care. The Dr. asked how I was doing and I mentioned that I was afraid I might have breast cancer because they HURT!!!

"No," he reassured me, "breast cancer usually doesn't hurt. Go pee in a cup."

Then "Think Positive" and 18 days after my son's birthday, his baby brother was born. Look at this picture. I love it because it clearly shows, what we tend to miss. It shows how fast a baby changes between birth and 1 year old.

The day I went to the Dr. (17 days after my oldest turned 1) complaining of back pain, and figuring with 6 weeks to go I might be needing bed rest, the oldest son also had a fever and was demanding being held even more. instead of bed rest, I ended up in an ambulance to a hospital 127 miles away and my 1 year old was at the daycare Grandmas home. I was sick with HELLP syndrome but din't realize how deadly it could be, Even when I was waking up from the emergency C-section all I could think of was my feverish, 1 year old 127 miles away from me and his Daddy. I came out of the general anesthesia sobbing, "I want my Baby!"

Not surprising in a woman who has a newborn in the NICU but when the Dr. and nurses tried to reassure me, "Your baby is doing great. He's on oxygen and in an incubator and in the nursery."

I just screamed, with tears pouring down, "Not That Baby You Idiots! I want MY baby!"

the next day my husband drove the 250 miles round trip to bring back the toddler and I still hadn't been allowed to leave my recovery room to see my newborn. When the 1 year old and my husband came in, the boy took one look at his Mom, and had totally been missing me too. He sobbed "Mommy" and flew across the floor, climbed up the bed, threw his arms around my neck, kissed my cheek

and then, the only time in his life
delivered a punishment for having abandoned him.

He turned his head and bit my shoulder hard enough I still have the scar - then hugged me like he'd never let go

There was however never sibling rivalry, he was a proud, loving helpful big brother from the first moment they met.