Reading follow up

This evening, I had the most wonderful follow up phone chat with Terre (my fellow reader the other night). She’s done lots of readings before and said she’s never seen one with as much warmth as the folks that turned out for us on Saturday showed.

She said I was held by that warmth during the reading (and after at the restaurant), and it made sense that when the tide went out, and I was alone, for me to feel super exposed and vulnerable. I’m doing much better tonight. I made brownies and watched a movie with my family this evening. Bit by bit I’m feeling less wigged out.

The good news is the warmth. What amazing people I know here in Cleveland.  I am left feeling truly, so blessed.

The Reading

There is a scene in my book, where I bought this really sexy dress to impress my boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. I was 17. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, on the big day,  I was so uncomfortable with the attention the sexy dress garnered, I wore a coat all night to cover it up, and wound up leaving the party early.

The scene kept coming to me as my reading drew closer. There is the idea of “attention” and it’s great, and then the reality of it is really uncomfortable. I felt sick with nervous energy prior to the reading. It’s one thing to write behind the safety of your computer screen. It’s another to be vulnerable sharing your work face to face.

But then people started coming and there were so many friendly faces. If you are an author and you want people to come to your readings, join a women’s chorus. They will come. My Windsong sisters were there in large numbers to support me. Many who could not make it sent emails of congratulations and encouragement. Thank you Windsong!

 

So many friends from so many different areas of my life were there. People from our public school days, lots of homeschool friends. Neighbors. Friends I have not seen in months and didn’t think would be able to make it showed up. My heart was very full of appreciation and I do think it is time to give up the tired old belief that I do not have a support system, because it sure felt like I had a community there.

The woman who read with me is a poet named Terre Maher. She went first and the audience listened raptly as she read a prose piece about a family dinner she and her siblings experienced with her hostile father, all while her mother lay dying of cancer in an upstairs bedroom. It was very moving, the way her child-self disassociated from the drama at the table, and then the tenderness between she and her mother as she answered her mom’s call bell, her escape from the dinner table.

I mentioned in an earlier post how Terre and I had a lot in common. One in particular of course is we grew up with severely wounded fathers. What we found out in our phone conversation earlier in the week is we are from the same hometown! Her family is from Binghamton, NY. They moved when she was little but returned every summer to visit her vast extended family. Of all the people in all the world who would be reading together, what are the odds? I wish I had thought to get a picture of us together, but I didn’t have on my thinking cap for such details at that point in the night! (Most of the pics in this post are from after the reading).

Next, it was my turn. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I just flat out admitted I was nervous and said I was going to take a breath, and the whole audience spontaneously took a deep breath with me. It immediately put me at ease. Deliberate breathers are good people.

My neighbor Heidi gave me a reassuring wink. I felt a hug from Lidi halfway back to my left. Kirsten was in the front. Meg smiled. HT met my eyes. Cindy nodded.

Once I got rolling, I felt okay. Sure, in my head earlier in the day, I’d had all of these pithy little things I was going to interject (and they all went out the window), but I didn’t faint. I read three pieces, one about a huge fight I had with my father when I was about ten years old, over the TV show Laverne & Shirley, one on a transcendent moment I had as a child while on an inner tube on a lake, and a final piece about how I got to college against all odds, due to the generosity of a boyfriend’s parents.

Many people said I didn’t appear nervous. It seems I have a good poker face.

A whole bunch of us went out for dinner after.

HT worked ’til 11PM Friday, then got up and went to work at 6AM Saturday so he could have the evening off and come to the reading. He then worked at 6AM Sunday after going out the night before. Looking at this picture just fills me with love and gratitude for him. For being there, for dealing with all my neurosis leading up to the reading, and also in the aftermath of it Sunday. Because there was fallout. I seriously had a hard time with all the vulnerability the event drummed up in me and felt like crawling into a hole to hide on Sunday.

I wanted nothing more than to put a big thick coat over my sexy dress.

My ego got hold of me. I questioned myself. I wished I had not used certain words during the reading, (“balls,” I was quoting someone, “assholes,” all mine). I watched a few minutes of video HT took and noted my mouth looks strange when I talk. I questioned whether I am just damaged and starved for attention and is that why I felt compelled to write this book? Is it why I blog?  Am I mean or vindictive writing about my father when I know he is so very wounded and ill? I felt ripped open and raw and was so very hard on myself. And I had this strange feeling all day of needing my mom.

I have not allowed myself to “need” my mom in over twenty years.

Around 8PM, I called her.

She reassured me of the value of my writing. Even if it is painful for her or my father. She reassured me it is good for me to write and to share our experience. She said I have no idea who it might help. She reassured me I am good.

She mothered me.

I let her.

She shared more of her story than I had known. She shared her regrets.

She said to give all my worry and self-doubt to God.

It’s okay for me to write my truth. It’s okay for me to share it. I don’t even have to understand the whole picture.

It’s okay for me to shine.

“Mommy will never forget you…”

We are half way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book. So far, I’ve read every one of them out loud to my children. Sometimes we snuggle up on the bed. Sometimes I read during their dinner, if HT’s getting home later and I plan on eating separately with him.  These are thick books and it is taxing sometimes, but I love it. I do. I especially love when we grab something from our reading and keep it with us.

In the first Harry Potter book, Hagrid the giant is forced to give up the baby dragon he’s been raising. It is dangerous and out of control, and it just has to go:

Hagrid sobbed, as Harry and Hermione covered the crate with the invisibility cloak and stepped underneath it themselves. “Mommy will never forget you!”

It’s funny because Hagrid is a big ogre, but he’s taken on the role of mommy to the dragon, and he’s nothing but a softy. Oh how the kids laughed at that line. 

This has become my standard farewell. Whether I am going away for a day, a weekend, or just to get groceries or to yoga for an hour, I fake sob in a low Hargrid voice to the kids,

“Mommy will never forget you!”

They fake sob back, hugging me with all they’ve got.

It is a ritual which will hopefully be passed down for many generations. If Seth has kids I’m suspecting they’ll especially love it. It will be even funnier coming from a daddy.

Reading at Mac’s Backs

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

This Saturday at Mac’s Backs, I have my first reading ever. I’m trying not to over-think it. I’m trying not to under-think it. I want to be prepared. I sort of feel like I’ve gotten on a roller coaster ride and it’s edging up the mountain and I’m all… on second thought….can we stop this thing? I’m not so sure about this. But it will all be okay.

It will be fine. Fine.

I know plenty of writers who do readings all the time and act like it’s no big deal, but they must have had a first time. And I bet they were at least a little scared. And my book is really personal.

I’ll be reading with another writer, Terre Maher. We spoke on the phone the other day and she seems lovely. That helps. We discovered in our conversation that we have much in common. Weird Stuff. No accidents stuff. I’ll tell you about it after the reading, unless you live in Cleveland and want to come. Then you’ll find out on Saturday.

Wish me luck. Wish that my lip or eye doesn’t start to twitch. Wish that I don’t read too fast. Wish that people show up. Wish that I wasn’t such a nervous Nelly.

You know, it’s strange. I used to work in radio. I had a White House press pass. I interviewed “important” people and my pieces were played on radio stations all over the country. Outwardly, I was intimidated by no one. I was once chastised by my boss for “not being awestruck enough” about covering the President’s State of the Union address. My reply to him was,

“These Congressional Reps and Senators sit down on the can like everyone else.”

One of my young colleagues almost did a spit-take over that one. The kahunas of my younger self astound me. But the bravado I used to carry around in my twenties has long since burned off. That’s a good thing. Bravado is just masked insecurity afterall.

Now it’s just me, being more real, which means sometimes being afraid.

Reading aloud from my memoir in public is a little scary but so what?

It will be fine. Fine.

It totally will.

Mac’s Backs
7PM Jan. 28th
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights

Using Technology to Communicate with Your Developmentally Disabled Child

On Feb. 14th, Elizabeth Aquino, writer of the beautiful blog a moon worn as if it had been a shell, will be co-hosting a webinar on using technology to communicate with your developmentally disabled child.

Details can be found in the link above. I have so much respect for families of non-verbal and pre-verbal children. The love they give, despite not getting to hear “I love you” back verbally is so moving to me. They are true examples of “unconditional love” (often talked about but less frequently seen) walking around on this planet.

It’s fitting the webinar takes place on Valentine’s Day. A day earmarked for love.

Lube, Sugar Water and Shrinkage

Yippee had a bit of a “problem” recently.

We don’t know how it happened, no one saw a thing, but suddenly, Yippee was very “out there” and it would not go back “in there.”

This is how I found myself, at the request of the vet, rubbing lubricating jelly on Yip’s junk last week.

It seemed to help. I’m nothing if not thorough.

And then, what do you know? The next day it was out again, and not going back in. This time the vet suggested more lubrication. And when that didn’t work, she suggested sugar water.

This is how I found myself dabbing Yip’s special area with a cotton ball loaded with sugar water, and what do you know? It really did go in a bit, but not all the way. And Google told me if it stayed out too long, there could be serious damage. Like necrotic tissue, and gangrenous infection, and death. And since Seth and Yip are brothers, that’s not really an option. Yip can’t die.

So on Friday, after the sugar water only proved partially effective, the vet told us to come in. So before we left, I took Yip out to pee, and as he stepped his little paws in the freezing cold snow, what do you know? Shrinkage.

Seinfeld: You know about shrinkage don’t you? 

Elaine: They shrink? I don’t know how guys walk around with those things.

Hurray!

We were told to “watch” him all weekend.

Yippee appears to be good as new.

I however, am still recovering.

Thank you for listening.

“It takes a child to raise a village…”

In a recent dedication ceremony at Agape International Spiritual Center in LA, the little girl being welcomed into the community is a RIOT. Her name is Lucia.

Click here, and just below the pause button you can drag the video to around 44 minutes to see her (though the whole service is worth watching).

What a miracle she is. How could she be born in Ethiopia, make it all the way to LA and steal the show at her tender age? How inspired are Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith’s words! I watched this after posting about Riley advocating for herself in the dentist’s chair. How inspired I was by her, as were many of you who commented. When Rev. Michael said during the ceremony, “It takes a child to raise a village.” Yes indeed, I thought. It’s the kids who are raising us. Raising us to new levels of consciousness.

Lucia… baby girl who was dedicated last week at Agape, I don’t know you, but I love you.

What a powerful, powerful child. Your being has already greatly multiplied the love on the planet. And you can’t even be more than two.

Gentle, gentle

So the other day when Seth had a bad reaction to his IVIG infusion, Todd slipped out during the ordeal and took Riley to the orthodontist before they closed for the weekend. It was imperative they correct a couple of stray wires that had come loose and were poking Riley in the cheek like needles.

She’d had the braces less than 24 hours and her mouth was sore, not just from the poking wires, but from the whole thing.

She sat bravely in the chair as the professional fiddled with her braces, and according to HT, at one point Riley suddenly stopped her and said sweetly but with conviction,

“Excuse me, could you be a little more gentle with me please?”

How many adults would be courageous enough and/or feel justified to stand up for themselves in this way? She didn’t fly off the handle. She didn’t heap any judgement on it. She didn’t melt down. She just asked for what she needed and got it.

What would it be like if we routinely asked others to be more gentle with us? What if, the next time we were about to make a self-deprecating remark we stopped and asked our inner critic, “Excuse me, could you be a little more gentle with me please?”

HT ain’t complainin’

I’m going to come right out and say it, I smell good. 

I happened upon a bottle of Love’s Baby Soft the other day at CVS. I didn’t even know they still made it! Let me just say, it was seven dollars well spent.

In my memoir Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar (did I mention I wrote a book?LOL) there are many eighties cultural references. One thing that got play was Love’s Baby Soft cologne. It was the smell to have when I was in Jr. High. Love’s Baby Soft ads graced the pages of Seventeen Magazine, and who wouldn’t have wanted to look like a Love’s Baby Soft model? Their skin dewy, their hair always perfection, it was something to strive for.

Probably every guy in his forties will recognize the smell. Perhaps they’ll catch a whiff as I walk by, and won’t know why… but a memory of slow dancing with so & so from 7th grade might suddenly waft it’s way into their thoughts. It’s powerful stuff.

Ladies, I suggest you march yourselves down to the nearest CVS, and splurge on a bottle.

Cause yo, “Some of the nicest things happen in Love’s Baby Soft.”

He’s Fine Now

Seth had a bad reaction today during his second IVIG infusion for his immune deficiency. He’s okay now, but it was not good.

He did fine his first infusion, and he was fine today, and then they increased the IV rate. Shortly after that, he became nauseous and needed to pee, so I took him with his IV pole into the bathroom and left Riley in the infusion room. Once in the bathroom, Seth became really ill and began throwing up. I left him for one second and ran to the office, shouting from the door for someone to help, and the only one who answered was Riley. I don’t know where the rest of the staff was, maybe in with other patients. 

“Riley, tell them Seth is sick.”

She did. Soon a nurse was there and she stopped the infusion.

I sat Seth on the toilet seat, and he kept throwing up into a waste basket, but he could barely hold his own body up, so I kneeled on the floor facing him, and he slumped onto my shoulder, moving me out of the way every so often so he could puke. He kept saying he wanted to lay down, but I refused to let him lie on the floor in the bathroom. 

Finally, I let him kneel on the floor with his arms resting on the toilet seat. I didn’t like the idea, but it was a one seater bathroom, we were the first appt. of the day, and I figured it had probably been cleaned overnight. My knees couldn’t take kneeling like that to support him much longer.

So kneeling, his forearms on the toilet seat, I’m rubbing his back and there is the sound of an explosion. He had massive liquid diarrhea in his pants and didn’t even react, he was so completely out of it. I’m trying to take his pants off, and clean him up, and hold him up, and where the fuck is the nurse? And she comes in after what was probably five minutes but seemed like an hour and takes his temp. His blood pressure was 80 over 40. She started a different IV, just fluids.

Keep in mind, as all this is happening, Riley is having a problem with her brand new braces, and there are metal wires that have come loose and are poking straight into the backs of her cheeks, and she will not survive the weekend if we don’t get to the orthodontia office before they close in the next two hours. If all had gone well, we’d have had plenty of time.

With my cell I call Todd at work to ask him if there is a possibility he could come help me. As I explain what they are about to do, (give Seth an IV push of a med to help the nausea, and another one to help the inflammatory reaction, Todd the hospital pharmacist starts yelling at me through the phone YOU DO NOT GIVE THAT MED IV PUSH,...as the nurse is pushing it in, and Seth starts crying because it is burning..BECAUSE IT ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE GIVEN IV PUSH) and I’m on the floor in the bathroom holding him up with Todd mad in my other ear and my baby is so sick, and Riley is God knows where, on her own.

We got Seth back into the infusion room, and he was pretty wiped out. He looked so pale, and weak, sitting back in a recliner, wrapped in nothing but a blanket from the waist down. I had not thought to bring extra clothes in case my nine year old pooped himself. I held him and rubbed his forehead and Todd came bursting in the room and Seth opened his eyes in a flutter and said in a tiny weak voice, “Hi Dad. How was work?”

I had to bury my face in my shoulder to hide my tears. Our boy is so freaking sweet, he feels like death and he inquires about his dad’s day the second he sees his him. Todd got all choked up too.

Finally, we got him settled, feeling better, and we continued the IVIG at a very slow rate.

Todd took Riley to the orthodontist, and came back quickly.

After we finished the PA came in to talk to us. In that way many doctors have of not wanting to take accountability he suggested maybe Seth has the flu, and asked if he’d had his flu shot? The child was fine, they increased the IV rate, he had a reaction. It isn’t the fucking flu.

“No. He hasn’t had the flu shot and he won’t be getting a flu shot.”

“Do you want to tell me why?”

What I said was, “No. We’re done talking about this.”

What I meant, and what I’m pretty sure came across was, “If you keep going with this, you are going to be a freaking carcass before lunch.” I’d had enough. And I am no longer in the business of trying to convince anyone about anything. If you don’t know flu shots are filled with crap and ridiculously ineffective, and about profit rather than public health I don’t know what to say. It’s not worth my energy to debate you.

“Just considering all the possibilities,” he mumbled upon retreat, defeated. I’m sure he’s pitying my “ignorance” as much as I pity his.

We finished the infusion. Seth is home. And he’s fine. He’s playing with his iPod. His appetite is good. No flu.

I am so jacked up right now I probably didn’t need coffee or the two donuts I just emotionally consumed.

Two down, four to go(infusions, not donuts, I’m done with donuts).

I sure hope this IVIG helps our boy.

Braces

Riley got braces today.

Her first dental appointment when she was a little girl was a nightmare for her and one of the worst experiences of my parenting journey thus far. As she got older it was evident she had a major need for orthodontia but I doubted she’d ever be able to tolerate it.

Today, she was so excited. She could not wait.

To her, braces mean being a tween. Being cool. Being like everyone else.

After her appointment, we went to the mall (and we never go to malls, I hate them) because she wanted to. She wanted to celebrate. We got smoothies and then walked around.

She still gets panicky and reaches for my hand stepping onto escalators, unable to perceive depth well. She’ll forget to let go when we get off the escalator and continue holding my hand as we walk through the mall, (not too cool for that at eleven years old). Hand in hand, this is when I am reminded how much she still reacts internally to external stimuli. She may not scream, but holding her hand, I feel her tension. When we walk by something extra noisy or a scary poster, or a perfume salesperson getting too close in our faces, she flinches. Her hand grips mine extra hard.

She still has sensory issues, but she gets through it. Brave, brave girl. She has worked so hard to be where she is now.

Our orthodontist has been building a relationship with her for years, preparing her for this day. Having us come in every six months, free of charge, just to peek in her mouth. Not even doing anything, just getting her used to him. Getting her used to the idea. Selling her on the coolness of braces.

Some days I am overcome by the kindness of people.

In the chair today, Riley asked intelligent questions. She dealt with all the sensory components of getting her braces on. She beamed when they gave her a mirror to check herself out in. She was pleased with her choice of neon green and purple bands.

She’s happy. She’s a happy girl.

I have this feeling, she’s going to be okay.

And I will never take it for granted.

Helping David and Freia

What do you do when you are a little girl, and you are out on a beautiful hike with your parents on Christmas day and suddenly your mom, dad, and dog slip on ice, and fall fifty feet into a ravine? The mom in the family is Riley and Seth’s yoga teacher from camp.

The family is recovering but they are in need of help.

I say, we prove to this child that good things always follow bad, the sun always comes up. People care, and Love will always show up to help.

Read more about this family here, and consider making a donation. Every little bit will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Thank you Love.

Donations can be made through PayPal by making a payment to kristen.felan@gmail.com (will show as Daryl Eady, Freia’s mom).

All the single ladies…

There are finer fish in the sea than have ever been caught.

-Irish Proverb

I’ve got a friend who is single but wishes to be married. Gorgeous, beautiful woman. At times she fears something is lacking in her because she has no mate. She yearns for the guy, not realizing the above parable applies to her. Friend, you are the finer fish. You have not been caught.

Sunburned Faces, Part 1

Some of you who read this blog, probably read Jeneil Russell’s blog too. She writes beautifully of family life, autism, and faith, always faith. And she has this way of making you fall in love with whomever she loves. Her daughters Rhema and Hope. Her twin sister. Her husband. God.

Recently, Jeneil’s husband Brandon hi-jacked her blog and told her readers about a little booky she wrote a few years back called Sunburned Faces. Jeneil had never mentioned it on her blog! It is about a stint she served in Ethiopia, working as a volunteer in a medical clinic when she was barely twenty.

Jeneil is the rare writer who can whole heartedly, and steadfastly proclaim her faith, while never making anyone else feel wrong or threatened. She just knows what she knows. I subscribe to the now cliche’ “spiritual but not religious” notion, and I never feel judged or cast aside by Jeneil for not believing exactly as she does.

Sunburned Faces is amazing. First of all, she was twenty when she was writing it, and it is so well written! Secondly, she’s seen things most of us will never, ever see. I learned so much about that part of the world, just by Jeneil’s tiny peek into it. Also, because Jeneil wrote it, I fell in love with the characters in her book. One of them will be with me forever. I just know it. I do not say that lightly.

I read Sunburned Faces just before Christmas, and it was powerful to do so at that time. We have so much. We do. Many people in the world have so little. It was good to be reminded, to be mindful of our blessings. In the holiday rush, I’d have a little thought, “I wonder if we should have gotten the kids….this or that, or whatever,” and remember they lack for nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I’ll be doing a Q & A with Jeneil one day soon here.

If you are not familiar with her already, do check out her beautiful blog. And if you want a good read that will make you appreciate your own life more, order a copy of Sunburned Faces.

Bowel sounds? Positive.

My nursing license is not current and it bugs me.

I have a lot on my plate with the kids issues and homeschooling, and no plans to go rushing back into nursing, but I like the security the license gives me. I like knowing if Todd suddenly could not, I could support our family. So, I have finally made up my mind to take the boards again. And who knows? A part-time gig might be nice a little further down the road.

So….recently, I was at a Catholic nursing school, taking an NCLEX review class. It was awesome. Twenty hours of review. That’s a long time to be sitting in an auditorium being tuned in, and I wasn’t bored once. The teacher was so good! It was like watching a gifted musician performing in the zone. Dude was born to teach NCLEX review. I didn’t walk out feeling ready for my boards, but I walked out feeling like I know exactly what to study. It feels good to work my brain that way again.

(If you are interested it was Mark Klimek’s NCLEX review class. Worth every penny. Even if you’re not in Ohio and have to travel).

So, as I said, this is a Catholic nursing school. It was lovely. Stained glass windows flanked each side of the auditorium. The acoustics were good. The seats were comfortable and roomy.

During the 15 minute breaks, there were mad dashes to the rest rooms. There were serious lines, with hundreds of nursing students at the review. I happened to hop on an elevator and find a bathroom on another floor, no line, no waiting. Given my poop-a-phobia, I am an expert at finding secluded bathrooms. Now I’m not saying I pooped there, but had I needed to, I could have. In private.

During the very last break, I was quick out of the auditorium. There were no lines. I decided, just this once, I’d use the bathroom everyone else was using. Walking in, I was first, and made a b-line to a stall. Tinkling, I reflected on my amazing bathroom karma. I had not waited in a line all weekend! Go me!

As I exited the stall, I couldn’t help notice the slant of a male tush sidled up to a urinal. And then another one. What the?

I was in the men’s room.

I broke the first rule of nursing, and hightailed it out of there without washing my hands for fear of seeing something I shouldn’t (I then cut the ladies room line and snuck in to wash them).

Now given all I’ve shared, is it just my potty on the brain, or does the blessed mother in the stained glass look like she’s surrounded by intestines?

All weekend, every time I looked up at that window, I couldn’t help but think it. The blessed mother, praying for positive bowel sounds. Been there. Can’t let your post-op patient go home ’til you hear them.

Maybe I really am a nurse after all.