Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cover Their Eyes and Ears

There has been some conversation in the news lately about Sarah Palin’s attempts to pull books from the library when she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

I actually like it that newsstands now put a paper cover over the naked women on the men’s magazines, at least in the airport newsstands where children are likely to pass by them. I have always found those covers somewhat offensive, even if most of the males I know do not. A lot of the books that I read, even the ones that are really serious literature, have a sexual element in them that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with children being exposed to and some of them are way too close to some pretty disgusting stuff for even my wizened eyes.

The summer before my ninth grade year my mama caught me with a rather racy novel. It was one of those heaving bosom, aching groin romantic things, but was couched in a respectable dark blue linen cover with the title stamped in gold.

The book in question was titled “Kitty”, coincidentally my own sister’s name, and had been left on the bookshelves of the house we had just moved into along with about a hundred others. I was forever hungry for something to read, and having access to a whole library of new books made me feel truly wealthy, even if the creaky old house did not. Those books filled long summer days with a kind of excitement I'd never been exposed to. The bookmobile that stopped at the Junior High had nothing like this on its shelves. I must have known it wasn’t appropriate, because I kind of sneaked around hiding it and reading it on the sly. I don’t remember exactly how Mama caught me, but I do remember that I wasn’t allowed to finish it. Now that’s censorship in action.

I wonder how I would have felt about my own teenagers reading “Kitty” in the eighties and nineties. By that time, we had become kind of numbed to sex in novels, beginning with “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” when my own girls were in middle school. Mama herself was known to read a few of those romance novels in her later years, but they were always disguised in a cute little fabric cover, designed to hide the titles and cover photos. That’s what happens with things, you get used to them a little at a time, and then it takes more and more to be titillating enough to satisfy.

It’s a new world out there today. It’s common now to talk about things that were only discussed by adults in hushed tones when I was a kid, if they were discussed at all. Things like divorce or breast cancer or incontinence or sexual orientation...actually most things involving bodily functions. I’m okay with most of this openness, but I really don’t want to have to explain to an eight year old what Cialis or Tampax are for either.

My daughters basically never have the television set on until their kids go to bed, and that’s sad to me. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of nights when homework was done and my family gathered around the television set to watch “I Love Lucy” and if we’d been really good “December Bride”. With my kids, it was “Little House on the Prarie” and “The Brady Bunch”. Today, there is some programming suitable for all ages, but precious little, and there are those ads to dodge even in prime time.

I hope that families find new ways to share a common experience in an entertaining way. I hope we’ll self censor ourselves enough that “they” don’t have to do it for us.


Saturday, September 27, 2008


As we enter the holiday season, I’ll have to go through the closet under the stairs and see what’s there, how long it’s been there, and what I can give away in the spirit of the season. There will be a few things that I bought that I decided weren’t quite right for the person I intended them for. There will be some that were given to me that would be much better used by someone else. There will be some that I bought and loved so much that I couldn’t quite give them up. They don’t deserve to be hanging around taking up space for much longer.

Today we celebrate the Liversary, the ultimate regifting occasion in our family.

Eight years ago, my hero son-in-law stepped forward and was chosen as a living donor to save my four year old grandson’s life. For more details, you can go back to my July posts and read all about it. (Give Life and Are You Saved) It was a precious gift.

I watched Robert, now twelve years old, tossing a football around with his two best friends last night on a patch of grass adjoining the soccer field where his four year old brother was playing soccer. (William was kind of playing soccer in between adjusting his socks and the green thingie they put on our team to differentiate them from the opposing team, also dressed in royal blue.) The contrast was astounding.

Robert has grown into a confident, handsome, and successful young man thanks to the regift his Uncle John made. It is a real pleasure to watch him just on the cusp of manhood. I know he will always treasure John’s gift to him. I suspect he will grow up and look for ways to reciprocate that gift. Of course, there’s no real way, but we all try.

I thank God for John and Robert and for the medical science that made them gifts in my life. I hope I find a way to pass on that gift today. I’ll begin by checking my organ donor card. I hope all of you do too.


P. S. If you'd like to leave a message for John and Robert, please click Comment at the bottom of the page. I'll pass them on.

Friday, September 26, 2008


The time on hold is not too long.

The used car actually is as good as it sounded.

Those weeds turn out to be perennials.

The third time you try potty training it works.

The smaller size actually fits.

The CD your son-in-law gave you really gets you hooked.

Ladies’ luncheons are not too fattening.

You win a prize at the fair.

The lamp at the discount store really looks good in your house.

The healthy recipe is really tasty.

Your husband is right about the soul food restaurant, or the movie, or the need to change all the lightbulbs at once.

One of those spiritual forwards hits a soft spot in your heart or that of one of those you chanced sending it to.

You don’t feel too out of place at an art opening.

The other members of the committee actually show up on time for the meeting.

Comfy shoes are kind of stylish.

You check the gift closet before you make a bunch of impulse purchases at Tuesday Morning.

It’s worth getting up early on January 2 to hit the sales.

All the presents you bought your family make a hit.

The presents arrive on time.

The guy shows up closer to eight a.m. than five p.m.

The noise from the railroad track near the house you bought really isn’t an issue.

The things that didn’t seem to be worth the effort, actually were.

The meek actually inherit something.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ever Wonder Why?

Healthy cookies never look or taste like the picture on the package, but Oreo's do.

The really good recipes never really serve four, but the lousy ones actually serve twelve.

The sour milk jug is always ¾ full, but there’s never one more serving out of the good jug.

The juice never gets spilled on the ratty old placemats.

The jeans that fit nicely invariably get bleach spots where you don’t want them; the ugly ones are pristine when you finally outgrow them.

If you buy a sweater large enough to allow for dryer shrinkage, it never does. If you don’t, it ends up fitting the dog.

The skinny mirrors are always in the store, not your closet.

The investment that just couldn’t fail usually does, and the pennies in the jar aren’t worth much either.

The movie you’ve been dying to see is the one where all the good parts were in the previews.

Perfect hair color only lasts a month at most, but a bad haircut lasts at least a year.

The lipstick you really like always gets discontinued, but is never in the clearance bin. The one you hate is available forever and always on sale.

If you buy enough of anything to allow for breakage or spoilage, it never breaks or spoils.

The invasive perennials never get bugs or diseases and bloom for months. The good ones bloom while you’re on vacation.

Couples with infertility problems are invariably the ones who would be the best parents.

Your car is in perfect shape at the last check up before the warranty is up, but breaks down before the next one is due.

The side of the car that got keyed is never the one that ends up being sideswiped.

Your toddler is perfectly behaved at grandmother’s, but never at home. At her house, he wears whatever she puts on him, eats whatever she serves, and never has potty accidents, and sleeps all night…You know the rest.

The lamp that gets broken at Nana’s house is never the one from the discount store.

The day you finally bring the extra set of clothes home from playschool… forever… is followed by a potty accident the next.

Your husband never shows up with a “Surprise Bouquet” the day before you break down and order one for yourself.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Excuse me!

I got an e-mail from a reader yesterday saying that she never realized that other people felt guilty for resenting the constraints imposed by being a responsible member of society. This precious friend worries that she doesn’t do enough for others. Nevermind that she is a teacher and caregiver for her ninety year old father and one of the nicest people imaginable.

Heck yeah we all feel guilty...well maybe just most of us. Guilty for just not wanting to do that today, and feeling pretty terrible if we don’t. I suspect that may be part of what keeps us civilized.

When I was in junior high school, I established a kind of unspoken pact with Mama that I could play hooky from school a couple of times a year. In the beginning, she just didn’t question me too carefully if I said I didn’t feel well, and was kind of oblivious to my reading a hefty novel cover to cover while I was laid up. By my junior year, I stayed home one whole day to sew an antebellum ball gown to wear to school to celebrate the Bi-Centennial of the Civil War with her knowledge and consent. I felt like Scarlett herself on Fridays that year.

By the time I was in college, I played a little too loosely with giving myself a pass to skip my seven a.m. Chemistry class, and I damn near failed it. Same with Tap Dancing, only at four p.m. on Fridays for goodness sake!

During the years I was rearing four children with a part time husband, I worked just enough to pay for child care at least once a week so I could go volunteer taking care of other people's children. I don’t think I’ve ever been without some sort of hobby or interest that seemed to excuse my not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

I have now given myself a lifetime pass from strenuous exercise. I just read an article that said risk of death among older people is directly proportional to the degree of stressors during exercise. In that same article, a number of other stressors were also implicated. I plan to avoid them all. My children won’t be happy to read this, and I can’t seem to find it, but I assure you it was a well documented study.

Everybody needs a pass now and then. A pass to read a book or browse through a shop looking at thing you can’t afford. A pass to pick up fast food and park your kids in front of the television so you can visit with a friend. A pass to play Cube Crasher instead of doing the ironing. A pass to get the burger instead of the salad. A pass to just be.

I hope I understand when people just need a pass. I hope they’ll understand me.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take A Deep Breath

I always enjoy those brief periods between events when I can do something I want to do without feeling guilty. I pat myself on the back when the bills are paid, Walker III’s medical exams and records are all in the proper hands, the dregs of the vegetable garden are all in, and there is nothing much on the calendar for a while.

This would be one of those weeks except for trying to work out the logistics of getting my new old car from Atlanta to Memphis, hoping to work out a couple of family visits in the process, and kind of being on call for the five grandchildren in Memphis. I’m hoping a new movie comes out that I can enjoy with Robert, that Becket and I will finally schedule a date to go out for lunch with my friend Sally and her granddaughter, and that there will be no crises in the meantime. I hope I can impose on friends and family once again to provide transportation for Walker, and that I won't be too anxious about them having to handle anything too difficult with him. With a special needs adult, you just never know.

For now, I’m going to try to make sense of the worldwide economic crisis, finish a book I had started, and maybe try to find some clothes. It all seems doable except for the political nonsense.

I hope I’ll remember days like this when I’m feeling overwhelmed. They are usually just around the bend, thank goodness.


Friday, September 19, 2008


Wow. This has been a week. Enjoying beautiful Fall weather, watching turbulence in the financial industry, celebrating forty two years as a mother, getting a massage, slogging through some kind of disgusting used car places, and finally buying what seems to be just the right car over the phone.

Al.l of the above were basically just living, but most of the less desirable ones were things that happen rarely enough that I can just hang on, even if I do get cranky and anxious. I did get that dinner delivered, and helped out another friend with some issues surrounding an unexpected surgery. It was nice to be on the giving end for a change. I’m much more comfortable there than when receiving for some reason. I guess most people probably are.

But I really liked getting some help on my car selection from one of my nephews who has been a bit of a car savant since he was a toddler, and I love it that my son in law takes care of our investments, easing my anxieties when necessary. I appreciated my daughter taking time to celebrate her birthday with us.

The truth of it all is that we are all interdependent at one time or another in our lives. It is rare for someone to survive in total isolation for very long. I’ve heard people joke about keeping their spouses around just so they’d have somebody to drive them to the hospital. Maybe they weren’t joking. After my children get past having toddlers with the throw ups, they may be helping us out at times. That's the way things seem to work.

I am thankful to have a community of mutual support in my life. I hope you do too. I hope I'll be equally gracious in giving and receiving in the future.


Sunday, September 14, 2008


Sorry I haven’t written for a while. I could blame lack of inspiration, too many doctor appointments, too many errands and meals to prepare…lots of things. The truth is, I simply decided to piddle around even more than usual and also did some pleasure reading and watched some of my favorite shows on Tivo. Prison Break is back!!!! I chatted on the phone about nothing special. Basically, I did nothing anyone would call special.

I began most of my letters to my parents, back in the day when we actually wrote letters, with a lame apology for not writing and/or visiting more often. I would then fill in for them the details of daily life that attempted to excuse my negligence. When I sorted through all my mother’s many bits of paper accumulated through the years and re-read some of these letters, I really felt the shame I should have felt back when I wrote them.

The truth is, we make room for the things in our lives that are important. We decide how to spend our time and energy and money, even when all are running low. I know in my heart that I should have made some different choices through the years, and I know that for the most part, I can’t do anything about them.

I want to make better choices today and whatever tomorrows I have left to me.

This week, I’ll actually book a day to take lunch to my brave friend Martha, who is such an inspiration to us all. I won’t just think about doing it. I’ll do it.

In spite of having MS for over twenty years, Martha regularly uses her time, energy, and money to bake goodies for Pastoral Care. She gets dressed every Sunday and comes to church, even on those Sundays when I’m home watching the politicos on TV in my bathrobe. It takes Martha a very long time to do anything, but she does it.

I hope that this week, I’ll be like Martha.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Other Side of the Coin

Yesterday I got inspiration and enlightenment from a very off the wall source, a right wing conservative. Michael Gerson is a former speech writer for President George W. Bush and writes an op-ed column for The Washington Post. His column caused me to look at the flip side of some of my opinions. It’s really worthwhile reading. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/09/AR2008090902519.html
I learned some things I didn’t know before and thought about some things in a new way thanks to Mr. Gerson. I hope you will too.


P. S. At the encouragement of my friend Anne Glamore of My Tiny Kingdom, I’ve added a feature that makes it easy for my regular readers to subscribe to my blog. Just click “Subscribe to:
Posts (Atom)” at the bottom of the page.

Blessed by Misfortune

I’m not sure how the Republicans got a hold on my heart this year, but they have certainly done so. Now, I’m hoping my brain will sort it all out for me and I'll finally make a decision by election day.

John McCain’s phrase “blessed by misfortune” simply leaped out at me in the midst of all the political jargon tossed around during the two conventions. His perspective as a former POW is one molded by courage. I think that may be why he gave a slight nod to Sarah Palin after his comment. I want to believe that it wasn't just politically expediency that brought him to acknowledge their bond of bravery.

Isn’t it amazing how many folks have a story of faith that is centered on something that seemed to be a tragedy, but turned out to be a wonderful crook in the road of life. Not that all horrible things turn out well, but it has been my experience that if you keep looking, you can find some tiny kernel of good in absolutely everything…yes, even in the ones that seemed most disastrous.

As I began writing stories about Walker, over fifteen years ago, I came up with the title “Mixed Up Blessings” for the book I proposed to write. I haven’t gotten the book written yet, but I had used the phrase “missed blessing” all my life. I'm sure it came from Mama as do most of my colloquialisms.

When I picked out birth announcements of Walker’s birth I used the same simple format I had used for the girls announcements, just had a blue border put on his instead of a pink. I enclosed a note, though, to the people that had not heard the news. I explained that we had at long last given birth to a son, but that ours was a mixed blessing as our precious baby boy had Down Syndrome. (I actually probably used a less PC term, but you get the idea.)

When I wrote those words, I’m not really sure I truly believed them yet. Today as I drove him to work, I told him how happy I am that he is my son. I wouldn’t trade him for any other son in the world. He gave me a small little grin and a nod. Today I know it was the truth.


Sunday, September 7, 2008


I received an epistle from a Down Syndrome Association a few days ago delineating how they would like for the press to refer to Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome. I have a Masters Degree in Social Work, and reading all the rules they handed down made my head swim.

I had heard some of them already. When Walker was born, I was told he was Mongoloid. That word kind of made sense to me, although it has fallen into disfavor. The suffix –oid usually means “similar to”. People with Down Sydrome, regardless of their cultural origin, do appear to have facial features somewhat similar those of Asian, perhaps Mongol, descent. (I hope I’m using the right word there.)

Early on, I was told that the name of the genetic defect was Down’s Syndrome. It was named for Langdon Down, the physician who first identified a cluster of characteristics that children born with an extra copy of the twenty first chromosome seem to have in common. Somebody decided that since Down himself didn’t have the genetic defect that the ‘s should be dropped. Like most changes, I’m having trouble adjusting to it, but that one’s not too ridiculous.

The ones that bother me most are the ones that require using many words to say what one used to suffice for. Now, I'll admit that most everyone I know objects to the insulting name beginning with R that has become common in popular society. But, do I as a parent really care whether you refer to Walker as a Down’s Kid or a Kid with Down Syndrome, or a Person With Down Syndrome. Absolutely not. Does he? You gotta be joking. The same goes for Mentally Retarded versus a Person With Mental Disability. (Actually I can’t quite remember what the powers that be preferred for that one, and it’s not worth looking it up right now.)

Walker doesn’t like it that he has Down Syndrome because he knows it makes him look and act different from most of the people around him. I think he suspects that it may be the reason he hasn't had a girlfriend in years. He has seen two classmates die prematurely because they had Down Syndrome. He knows it’s a much bigger deal than what you call him. Just call him Walker. Call him friend. Call him beloved son, brother, uncle, nephew, grandchild, neighbor, co-worker.

What I really wish is that some of the time and money wasted on renaming stuff would be put into remediating the things that can be remediated for children with all disabilities. Give them all the kind of education that we were able to afford for Walker. Give them more time in school as long as they’re progressing, because they continue learning for a lifetime. Give them good dental and medical care and speech therapy and occupational therapy, because they can function in the greater society if they’re healthy and well educated and trained in grooming and hygiene.

I’m truly grateful for all the people who made Walker what he is today. A blessing.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Free To Be

I stayed up late enough last night to watch Sarah on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I had thought I’d just go on to bed and watch it on Tivo in the morning, but I was really too excited to sleep. If you missed it, it’s available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZSKyZpx1Fg

When Walker came down for his nightly snack, well after midnight, he was startled to see me up, but sat with me while I watched the interview without much reaction. I think he has mixed feelings about seeing one of his beautiful sisters on television.

He really didn’t realize that Sarah was a big deal until one Sunday morning several years ago when he discovered her in a Target ad for the DVD of the first season of Brothers and Sisters. Up until that point he had been somewhat uncomfortable with her being in ads or on television “in her underwear”. (Actually she was just on the hang tags and posters at Target in a bikini, but I can see how his adolescent brain might perceive that as inappropriate for his sister.) He became a minor celebrity himself at Super Cuts when he pointed out to his barber that the girl in the big poster hanging from the ceiling was his sister.

As I watched Sarah’s interview again with her dad this morning, she looked beautiful and told some tales of her somewhat unconventional life in a charming and funny way. I kind of gulped a bit when she told about pilfering free cooking oil from restaurants in her neighborhood. We recently became aware that in her concern for the environment, she is actually breaking the law. The waste oil that she harvests to run the old automobile she had converted to run on what has been a free source of energy has become a commodity worth almost as much as gasoline. Could she be indicted on a felony because she is using someone’s waste grease?

You know what, I’d hate that for her, but know that the world won’t come to the end if she is. My job of guiding all of my children and teaching them right from wrong ended years ago—thank goodness! The greatest gift I have given any of them is the freedom to choose their life paths just as soon as they evidenced some capacity to make good choices. Along with that freedom, though, I made it clear that the responsibility of bearing the consequences if their choices was theirs too.

I know… I delivered a paper to school occasionally to keep them from losing 10 points on a test. We got the dents in the cars fixed when they inevitably had their first accidents. The price they paid for getting bailed out was sometimes a lecture, sometimes other punishments, but never involved me taking over the jobs I saw as theirs.

I hope I’ve done a good job. Today is one of those days when I’m pretty sure I did.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Choices

I need to buy a car. Not that I care one whit about style or looks, but my choice of an SUV five or six years ago is proving to be a poor one. I love sitting up above the crowd, and the number of traffic accidents I’ve been involved in has been zero because I can basically see better from up there. That hasn’t kept me from a few dings along the way, but overall this has been a reliable and safe car. It’s just too hard for me to get in and out of now, and if and when I have my knees replaced, I suspect it will become impossible.

So we begin the painful process of choosing. About the only thing set in concrete is a general price range and wanting low miles. Getting some warranty and better gas mileage would be a real bonus.

Then the real choices begin. More bells and whistles in the sound system or leather seats with seat warmers? A newer model or an older one with less miles? The generic white one, or the cool greenish color? A little more for a tow package? Thank goodness, I really don’t care too much about those things.

There’s always a trade off, but mostly none of these choices are going to affect the rest of my life.

What I really hate is when I get into a situation where I don’t really like any of my choices and must make one. In social work having limited choices that are somehow dictated by someone else is defined as Oppression. Most of the unpleasant choices I’m faced with aren’t quite that radical, but I still don’t like them.

Sometimes those situation leave me immobilized, so I do nothing. Getting more information usually helps me eventually make up my mind. I thrive on facts and statistics. Sometimes talking the choices over with a friend or my daughters or my husband helps. If there’s a consensus after all that, I can move ahead.

It’s not quite so simple as the days when my brother and sister and I shared the same room, and our decisions were decided by what was usually a “two against one, we win you lose” vote. Somehow it’s in my nature to want everyone to win, or at least walk away feeling good about the outcome.

I hope I’ll make wise decisions in my life. I’m thankful that I’m fortunate enough to have some decisions to make.


Monday, September 1, 2008


Wow! I had already written several drafts of a post centered on how confused I was during this year’s presidential campaigns when I arrived home and clicked on the TV to check on Hurricane Gustav. I was met with news creating much more chaos than that created by the somewhat milder than expected hurricane.

Sarah Palin’s seventeen year old daughter is five months pregnant and plans to marry the father of the baby…sometime. Apparently John McCain knew this when he selected her as his running mate. I can’t even begin to process what this news means to their candidacy, so I won’t try. I’m just sad that by not using birth control her daughter has committed the cardinal sin of political offspring…ruining her reputation. Maybe it won’t have any effect on the race, but I’m afraid that it will.

I am as close to a political independent as anyone I know. My choices are swayed by some ideals assimilated through the years, tempered by my classes in graduate school, and a healthy dose of self interest. I really hadn’t made up my mind who to vote for, but was beginning to lean toward Obama, mainly because of his selection of Joe Biden as a running mate.

Then on Friday, I found myself strangely excited as I watched the coverage of Governor Palin’s selection to be McCain’s running mate. Walker happened to be sitting in the den with me, and he was unexpectedly delighted, or at least as delighted as he ever seems, by the news that that lady on the podium had a baby with Down Syndrome.

“Dad! That baby has Down Syndrome…Just like me!”

As I pondered the choice that faced Sarah Palin when she was told that the baby she was expecting was going to have Down Syndrome, I couldn’t help but think back to my pregnancy with Sarah. Amniocentesis was relatively new at the time, and I imagine it was a much riskier prospect than it is today. I just knew I couldn’t spend nine long months wondering about the health of this baby, so I decided to have the procedure.

In my case the news was all good. I wasn’t ever absolutely positive, though, what I would have decided if there had been a problem. Maybe a year and a half of living with Walker would have convinced me that rearing a baby with Down Syndrome wasn’t too bad, but I don’t think I had gotten to the point where I wouldn’t have been devastated at the prospect of rearing two children with significant disabilities. I just didn’t know.

I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice…really, really glad. I’m also glad that there wouldn’t have been federal laws in place making my choice for me…either way. Sarah Palin's anti-abortion stand was definitely in the negative column for me.

I hope we all eventually learn about personal responsibility and the right to make the right choices for our family at any given time and allow others to do the same.