Posted in Family, Recovery

Shining a Light into the Dark Places

Brigid with the Imbolc lambs (and on my arm)

It’s Imbolc, a fire feast and a day that belongs to Brigid, Celtic goddess of fires, of home and hearth and healing, of smithcraft and wordcraft. (Or–for those more comfortable with a different version of her–Saint Bridget, patroness of those same things, as she has also been known since the Catholics co-opted her some centuries back…)  Imbolc celebrates the lambing, the new life of spring after the dark of winter, the coming of Light.

It’s a celebration of beginnings, of cleaning house both literally and figuratively, of lighting the dark corners and praying for continued blessings in the upcoming year. At this time last year, my husband Keoni and I had only just collected our 30-day Sobriety chips after our awful alcoholic relapse, and it was a time of intense spiritual house-cleaning.

the Imbolc broom & the prayer-beads Keoni made for me last year

Despite my Irish roots, last year was the first that I took Imbolc to heart, right down to the symbolic broom Keoni made for me from the dried lily-stalks in our yard, and the string of turquoise prayer-beads he strung for me, not in ‘catholic’ decades, but in thirteens…. (That’s a number signifying transition, resurrection, and ascension or enlightenment; and a gemstone esteemed in ancient cultures around the world for its putative healing properties… And which, on a more humorous note, matches my entire closet…) .

I think it was good ol’ Groucho Marx, whose humor sometimes hid his wisdom, who said:

Blessed are the Cracked, for they shall let in the Light.

We had quite thoroughly cracked ourselves…  And so… It has been a year of Light.  With its darknesses too, as my writing the other day no doubt illustrated. But there’s the Light shining through, too–in the prayers and virtual hugs and uplifting comments that all of you sent my way in response to that post.  My deepest, heartfelt thanks!

three faces of Brigid–poet, life-giver, healer

And–to highlight some darkness–in all fairness I have to observe that, although I don’t believe the ex-husband’s behavior (especially in front of the kids) was in any way excusable, his underlying mistrust of me is not unfounded.  If I thought he’d pretty well ridden his “High Horse” to death when I was 22 months sober–well, I handed him a brand new horse when I drank again.  Trust might heal with time, but I don’t have the right to expect it from anyone.

One of the many people whose trust I had train-wrecked was my sister… We each only have one sister, she and I–but I had been allowing myself the illusion that she wasn’t interested in having hers anymore, and I had been determinedly withdrawing for a good while now…  But, in the spirit of spiritual house-cleaning, that’s one of the functions of the A.A. Ninth Step of “making Amends” to those we’ve hurt. And this week I fumbled my way into the beginning of the Amends process with my sister.

with my sister six years ago–before my drinking drove a wedge

I say “fumbled” because (since we’re shining lights into dark corners here, I must be honest) I began by behaving very badly, and unloading a resentment of mine–which (I quickly realized in reading her thoughtful response) was a ridiculous thing to do when I hadn’t yet stepped up to my own damaging drinking behaviors that so severely impacted her.  With the wise guidance of my Sponsor (the “Jiminy Cricket” conscience who sits on my shoulder and suggests I get my head out of my ass when my head is getting ahead of my Recovery) and some heartfelt prayer, and the open heart of a sister who, in fact, doesn’t wish to be rid of me, that bad beginning actually drop-kicked me into an overdue beginning at Amends.

Making Amends is not a matter of apologizing.  As my Sponsor says, people have been hearing “I’m sorry” from us drunks too many times to make it a meaningful statement. Rather, it’s an accounting of the harms we’ve caused someone, followed by the question: “What can I do to make this right?” So today I’m in possession of a treasured answer to that question, and today is a life with my Sister in it once again. Talk about the Light shining through the Cracked Places of a Soul!

The prayer hand-written on the fly-leaf of my battered A.A. Book–the prayer I usually use when those prayer-beads are in hand–is one that was written to Brigid, although it could certainly be directed to a Higher Power in any form…

Make me strong in spirit,

courageous in action,

gentle at heart.

Help me act in wisdom,

conquer fear and doubt,

discover the hidden gifts within me,

meet others with compassion,

be a source of healing energy,

and greet each day with Hope and Joy.

So on that note…. Here’s wishing you a Blessed Imbolc, or Happy Candelmas, or Merry Groundhog Day, or…  simply a day of Blessings and Light.

Posted in Family, Recovery

13 Months of Sobriety are Irrelevant–I Am a ‘Drunken Waste’

This is a public service announcement, at the behest of my ex-husband, who feels it’s critical that everyone should know the following facts (especially our children, ages 7 & 10, in front of whom the Ex and his live-in girlfriend screamed this diatribe in my husband’s face last Friday):

“You are a Drunken Fucking Waste!  Both of you.” “You’re probably drunk right now, and you two shouldn’t even be allowed to see our kids. You’re just a drunken waste, what a Drunken Fucking Waste!”

(Ordinarily I would apologize for the language, but since it’s not mine, I’ll pass on performing that politeness.)

It’s important that the record be set straight (especially for the benefit of the children’s hearing), because evidently I may have bamboozled some of you with my smooth talking into thinking that I am a Decent Human Being. (Or, as the Ex said to the custody mediator last summer: “She LOOKS respectable!”–but that’s clearly a facade.)

In Reality, you should understand, a person who has maintained Sobriety for more than thirteen months (and whose two-week 2010 Relapse after a previous 22 Sober months did NOT happen in the presence of the children) is, in fact, a Drunken Fucking Waste.  A person who, along with her husband, registers a 0.00 reading on an Alco-Sensor at every hand-off of the children for thirteen months is, in fact, probably drunk right now.  Because she is, after all, a Drunken Fucking Waste. Probably the Alco-Sensor can’t be trusted, and that should definitely be investigated.

Related side notes include the important fact that the Live-In Girlfriend with anger management issues should properly refer to the children (who describe her as a “mean yeller” who is “sometimes scary”) as HER kids, to the exclusion of their mother. Additionally, the children themselves should be educated on the issue that their Stepfather of several years is NOT a member of their family, and they should not refer to him as such. He is (and they have now been informed, in these exact words) a Drunken Fucking Waste.

To continue setting the record straight: the parent who has displayed a regular pattern of driving drunk (who has, in fact, had to clean his own vomit off the side of his car after puking out the window while the car was in motion) is in no way a threat to the children’s safety because he is Not An Alcoholic.  He has never been caught driving drunk, so he can not pose a safety threat.  In actual fact, the Imminent and Continual Threat to the Children’s Safety is posed by the parent who was arrested for drunk driving several years ago, because (despite the irrelevant fact of her continued and demonstrated Sobriety) she is An Alcoholic. Otherwise known as a Drunken Fucking Waste.

We should also cover some procedural issues, such as the Proper Protocol in a dangerous situation such as when the children climb into their Sober Stepfather’s car on a Friday Evening after testing for their new levels of karate belts, which they are excited to go home and celebrate.  In this case, the accepted Emergency Procedure to ensure the safety and the emotional well-being of the children is as follows:

  1. The Non-Alcoholic Father should block the vehicle of the Sober Alcoholic Stepfather (as well as the rest of the parking lot’s traffic) by positioning another vehicle behind it.  The Non-Alcoholic Father should then approach the Sober Stepfather with clenched fists and other aggressive body language, and shout at him that he is probably drunk, and the kids aren’t going anywhere with him.  (Note: trivial matters such as court-ordered custody schedules should be ignored at times like this, because Rules should not apply to a Superior Person who is not a Drunken Fucking Waste.)
  2. The Live-In Girlfriend should then haul the children out of the Sober Stepfather’s back seat, and herd them into the other vehicle. (Note: for additional effectiveness in ensuring the children’s emotional well-being, the windows of this vehicle should be rolled down so the children can hear and witness the entire following scene.)  When the children have been safely extracted, she should SLAM the door of the Sober Stepfather’s vehicle, and announce to him that “It’s a piece of shit, just like you!”
  3. The Non-Alcoholic Father should announce (maximizing his effectiveness by yelling his lines of dialogue) that “You’re probably drunk right now! The kids aren’t going anywhere with you [see note above] unless you blow in the breathalyzer right now!” (Note: the fact that the Sober Stepfather has NO legal obligation to provide breathalyzer readings, but has religiously done so as a courtesy, should not be taken into account.)
  4. When the Sober Stepfather inquires, “If I blow in the breathalyzer, will you let the keikis go?” the Non-Alcoholic Father should refuse to answer the question. It is a much more effective approach to continue yelling, “Blow! Just blow!” (Note: when the children’s grandmother–the mother of the Non-Alcoholic Father, pleads with her son to back down, and points out that the Sober Stepfather is the one being polite, she should be ignored.)
  5. When the Sober Stepfather chooses to use the breathalyzer (rather than call the police) to diffuse the situation for the children’s sake, the Live-in Girlfriend should do her part by yelling at him while they wait for the machine to warm up: “You two shouldn’t even be allowed to see our children!  You are such a waste, both of you, you’re such a Drunken Fucking Waste!”
  6. the proud new Black Belt... when he THOUGHT he was about to go home and celebrate

    When the Alco-Sensor shows its reading of 0.00, as it has for the past thirteen months (that really does need to be looked into), the Non-Alcoholic Father should announce that he is going to explain to the children what this was all about before he lets them go.  When the Sober Stepfather answers, “That’s fine with me; we’ve always been very open with them about our alcoholism and our recovery,” the Non-Alcoholic father should respond, “Well I’M going to tell them the TRUTH!” (Note: while the Non-Alcoholic Father is in the car with the children–and the windows finally rolled up–this is a good time for the Live-In Girlfriend to get in a few more repetitions of “You’re just a Drunken Fucking Waste!”)

  7. When the children return to the Sober Stepfather’s car and the Sober Stepfather says “Thank you” to the Non-Alcoholic Father, the Non-Alcoholic Father should respond with a threat: “Yeah keep smiling, I’m going to wipe that smile off your face real soon!”

If the children return home to their mother (who has been working, and is eagerly awaiting a celebration of their newly earned karate belts) and burst in the door to cling to her and cry, then the mission has been accomplished.  And when the kids end up in the counselor’s office the next week–well, it’s clearly because their Mother is an alcoholic.

An Alcoholic can be Sober, but there’s no ‘A.A.’ for Assholes!

Posted in Travel

“Western Byways” on the Road… Carey, Idaho

Friday the 13th on the Road: da Kook (er, Cook), the Writer, & the Photographer/Driver

The Western Byways editorial staff is on the road for a few days!  The Editor has rented a motor-home, our teeny-tiny Photographer has designated herself Driver (which is kind of like watching a minnow steer a whale shark), my husband is reprising his road-role as The Traveling Chef, and I’ve had my iPad fired up all day with maps and note-taking and recording and photographing…

Before we headed out, The Editor stood up front in his best flight-attendant imitation and told us how to pull the air brake if the vehicle were to start rolling, and how to make sure the propane doesn’t blow up.  “There’s a shitload of other buttons,” he concluded, “but that’s the death-stuff, so I think we’re covered.

Carey, Idaho, pop. 604

The Editor is a fantastic ideas guy–although his strengths don’t always run to communicating his plans…  Case in point–when he asked me to do the writing for this trip, he said we’d be gone be through Sunday–but as we barreled out of town on the freeway this morning and he listed the scheduled stops of our “tour bus,” he kept right on going past Sunday night and into Monday.  “Um, hang on,” I told him–“I guess I need to call our kid.”  (Should the parent of a teenager be worried when the response to the message that we’ll be gone an extra day is a text saying, “Sounds Good“?  Hmmm…)  Happily for us, we lead a life where an unexpected extra day on the road really isn’t a problem. Our son is fine with his best friend, Keoni isn’t yet back to work after his knee replacement a month ago today (lucky 13!), and my my freelancing work can go with me anywhere.

Nevertheless, Keoni teased that I’d better “call the office” right away–a joke actually signifying a celebration of the fact that we don’t live that life anymore–then picked up his own phone and dialed…  my number, as it turned out.  “Hello, you’ve reached the office of Kana Iguana,” he said to my voicemail, in his most serious business-tone. “Kana will be out of the office until Monday, January sixteenth.  Mahalo for calling!

Carey Idaho in the 1950s–when it still had cafés and stores… Photo from the town’s growing collection

Another scheduling-surprise for me was the fact that the Mayor and Town Council of Carey would be meeting with us when arrived in town.  This one alarmed me a little, as I’m dressed for rural Idaho winter travel–hooded sweatshirt, quilted plaid flannel, old jeans, hiking shoes, pigtails–not so much for a “VIP” introduction to the town kahunas.  As it turned out, I’m not sure they saw me at all–I think maybe they saw my expensive camera and the “record” light flashing on my iPad while I scribbled in my note-taking app as they talked…  And (through those tools) I think they saw the statewide audience they hope to entice into town.

As a general rule, I do my travel-writing “incognito”–I chat people up and ask more questions than most visitors probably do, but I don’t announce any publication-affiliation, and I’m unaccustomed to being greeted by a town as The Writer…  We met with the committee working to revitalize the town, which had pretty well died out after World War II (except for the Japanese internment camp, the barracks of which are now apartments) when the 40-employee cheese plant and its supplying dairies moved out of the area.  The committee’s go-to woman, Vonnie, offered us the RV electrical hook-up at her house because Carey doesn’t have a motel or KOA or even a café anymore.  Our driving instructions, coming into town, were to “look for the house with the milk truck out front.”  (Vonnie’s husband delivered milk in cans for forty years.)  It’s a one-road town, platted in 1919 along the highway, with no other road running parallel to the highway, so we found her easily enough.

GE pink kitchen–just like Vonnie’s

Before driving us to City Hall Vonnie invited us inside (an original1953 custom kitchen of pink GE appliances!) and pulled out stacks of old photos of the town, which she and the committee have assembled from the townsfolk as a reminder of the vital little town this once was, and could be again…

After City Hall, and a thorough tour of the schools conducted by the principal, we shivered our way back to the motor-home to warm up and eat the stir-fry dinner Keoni had waiting for us. After dinner, a local musical gathering Vonnie had pulled together for our enjoyment in her living room, guests including the woman who both delivers the mail and drives the town ambulance.  It’s that kind of small town–an eight-man football team town.

But then, given its proximity to Sun Valley, it’s also a town where you might run into Bruce Willis or Tom Hanks at the summer rodeo…  I’m looking forward to some exploring tomorrow–but I’d better finish organizing my notes and recordings…  Because the pull-out bed in the motor-home’s main room is looking awfully inviting right now!  Especially since my best cuddle-buddy is waiting for me there.  Till tomorrow, then!

Posted in Recovery, Today's File

It’s a Turtle Life

12-23-08... and "A New Life"

My husband Keoni has some Dates of Importance among his tattoos.  There’s the date John hanged himself and Keoni rose from the ashes (“Shifting Paradigms and Half a Pair’o’Dimes”)…  There’s a Lucky Thirteen for our wedding anniversary…  And there’s December 23, 2008, right below the kanji meaning “A New Life.”  Today is the anniversary of the day he met The Maxi-Pad Lady.

Or, to back up a little, this is the anniversary of the day I checked myself into Rehab.  Here’s my journal entry from December 23 that year.

  Well, let’s see, we start with lots of paperwork, a strip-search, confiscation of everything from my shoelaces to my necklace, unpacking and inventory of everything in my bag in the middle of the nurse’s station. This is way out of my comfort zone.

The items I’m allowed to keep in my room (minus toiletries–meaning I’ll have to “check out” my deodorant or maxi pads from a nurse) went into a bin I carried down the hall.

The rooms look like Motel 8, with worse bathrooms and worse beds.  But Toots [my very ragged teddy bear] is mine, and a stack of books on my desk, and a picture of the kids by my bed.  Oh, did I mention the bathroom doors don’t lock, and everything else IS locked? We’re surrounded by locked doors and fences.  Seems strange to come to a place voluntarily and experience this…

The nurse who escorted me down the hallway with my plastic bin of drawstring-denuded sweatsuits introduced me to “the guy who takes care of everyone.”  An apt description–Keoni was the grandfatherly guy who made everyone comfortable, who diffused tensions and mediated disputes, who rounded everyone up for meals and our mandatory badminton games, whose sense of humor was so whack it took people a couple beats to catch up to his wordplay-jokes…  And who happened to be the person passing by when I wanted to vent my irritation about having to ask a male nurse whenever I needed a fresh maxi pad.  That was pretty much our first-ever conversation, and the reason he knew me as The Maxi-Pad Lady.

Keoni... and "A New Life"

Neither of us had arrived looking for a “rehab romance”–I had a boyfriend, and he had a wife. He and his counseling team had already concluded, before my arrival, that he wouldn’t stay sober if he returned to the abusive home environment which he had tried to escape by hanging himself two weeks earlier, but still, a romantic relationship was not the type of “rescue” which either of us had in mind.  But God has a sense of humor–and just four days later I was writing in my journal about our iPod-swap (overlapping playlists of Hawai’ian music on both), and our badminton rivalry, and the note: “I do love the smile in his eyes.”

I have the same kanji–meaning “A New Life”–on my own arm, right next to his name (he has proven to be my Anchor).  As we said our morning prayer together and reflected on the three years since The Maxi-Pad Lady met the Unit’s Grandpa, I could only conclude that it is, indeed, a Whole New Life.

Or, as he spun it in response, “A Turtle Life.”  I’m sorry–what?   Honu, Babe,” he explained, reverting to the Hawai’ian language.  “It’s a Honu Life.”

Posted in Family, Today's File

Inventory Item: Right Knee, Size XL

worst knee our surgeon had seen still in use

I’m writing from my hubby’s hospital room, where we’re “camping” for a few days.  He is in possession of a brand new knee as of yesterday (lucky 13th), and we’re learning that one size doesn’t “fit all.”  The grippy-socks they provide for patients only fit over the ends of his size-17 flippers, so he’s reclining right now with the generic set of socks pulled over the toe-ends of his feet like an impish pair of sock puppets.

The knee itself was pulled from the “stockpile” of extra sizes; my Hawai’ian Guy’s bones are so big they needed to install an Extra-Large Knee. (We’re grateful to learn that they evidently keep extra sizes on hand.)  The doc told me afterward that he’d never installed such a large knee before.  It was a second “first” for this doctor, who–despite his presumably extensive experience with used-up knees–told us on first viewing Keoni’s x-ray that his was the worst knee he’d seen still in a person’s body.

We did have to disappoint our 10-year-old, Christian, who wanted to bring “the old knee” to school for show-and-tell, as the hospital is required to dispose of the used body parts after surgery.  Sorry, Son.

I’m a little on the side of sleep-deprived, so rather than attempting a single coherent piece, I’m just going to share a few observations here before I go back to what I’m supposed to be writing for tomorrow’s deadline…

“My Idea of Camping is When Room Service is Late.”

My mother had that slogan on a Tshirt once (funny but false–she’s a Girl Scout and a skilled woods-woman who taught me plenty).  We’re referring to this as our “camping trip” because it’s definitely a departure from the comforts of home–but truthfully, the menu is decent, the “park rangers” are super-friendly, and (somewhat to the surprise of the nursing staff) we can snuggle quite comfortably together in the hospital bed… though of course there are ongoing interruptions all night as the dutiful rangers show up at regular intervals to wrangle the wildlife into a state of wakefulness and get blood-pressure readings from the arm which was wrapped around my blissfully (but briefly) sleeping self.  (See “sleep-deprived” above…)

a new zippered knee

“Chicks dig scars.”

That’s what Keoni always tells our fifteen-year-old football player when he comes home with his latest round of bumps, bruises, and gashes from football practice.  Time to test the theory on himself now: that’s a heck of a leg-zipper!

Yeah, I dig it.

My “Office” Environment Just Got More Distracting.

Lucky for me, my job can go with me wherever I go!  The hospital room has wireless internet, and I’ve got my daily freelance deadlines as always–no sweat, right?

I was sure I’d left myself plenty of writing-time to meet today’s noon deadline, and couldn’t figure out why it was coming along so slowly.  After all, I’d only paused for a few moments for the physical therapy session.  And another few moments to meet with the discharge planner.  And another few moments for the pain-management consultation.  And another few moments for the…  Okay, okay, I clearly need to budget more time to get anything finished here.  Tomorrow’s assignment had better get tackled tonight so I’m not sweating deadline again.  (See how resolutely I’m following through with that plan? Ahem. No, this blog is not part of tomorrow’s deadline…)

Call me Coach!

I’m ready for my whistle and clipboard!  I’m Keoni’s designated “rehabilitation coach,” so the dynamic duo of K&K has been stirring up mirth and merriment in the group physical therapy classes.  Happily, it’s a cheerful group of people who seem universally pleased by the prospects of their new joints, and open to a little humor.  Even ours.

When we got to the section of self-dressing (pulling hospital scrubs on over their own clothes for practice), the folks who don’t have in-home help or coaches got “reachers,” or extendable sticks with maneuverable grabbing-fingers at the ends, to help them with things like socks and pants that have to be applied to one’s person beyond the reach of one’s arms…  Keoni looked wickedly interested in the “Nifty Nabber,” but I wouldn’t let him have one because he wouldn’t promise not to use it for grabbing ME. I heckled him for a strip-tease when the group got to the self-UN-dressing segment, and the whole row of little-old-ladies (in various stages of “undress” themselves) were snorting in a most unladylike fashion as we all got the giggles at the new challenges presented by those basic items like socks and pants.

One of my coach-duties is the administration of injections to prevent blood clots and pulmonary embolisms, so I got my training today.  Sheesh, what a production!  I had to watch a ten-minute “procedural video” to prepare me for the complexities of…  a three-second stomach-stab action.  Okay, okay, got it already.

Walking Tall

Keoni has been in so much pain for so long, and he’s been walking with the stooped-over bearing of a much older man. He jokes with the younger kids that he’s so old he’s not their step-father; he’s their stumble-father.  Today’s field trip down the hospital hall, with the shepherding help of the physical therapist and the aid of a walker, was honestly not any slower than his pre-surgery pace.  But I’m joyfully noting that he has his own inches back.  He’s walking tall again, and at least the pain he’s experiencing now is attached to a solution.

Random Other Notes…

…Watching from our ninth-floor window, I have to observe that Idaho drivers have NO idea what to do with a traffic Roundabout.  Every entrance to the hospital-grounds includes a diagram explaining the “device” to drivers, but there’s a state of observable confusion going on below our window all day long.

…A.A. coffee beats hospital coffee, no contest. Though I was glad to have coffee when I peeled myself out of the hospital bed this morning to tackle my writing assignments.  It’s not bad if I remind myself to think of it as “camping coffee.”

…Keoni really does prefer being poked by needles with ink in them, but for the necessary evils of IVs and injections, the nursing staff has been very considerate in targeting un-inked areas of his arms.

…Suzy-cat is no doubt very put out with us.  We left plenty of water and kibble out for her, and our teenager (who’s staying with friends for a few days) promised to stop by for an attention-session, but I have no doubt we’ll hear about this when we arrive home. The electronic compression-pads on Keoni’s calves periodically inflate with a little electronic vibration, and when he was still groggy from the anesthetic, he thought it was Suzy cuddling up against his legs.  Now we’re referring to the compression pump as the “ghost cat.”

my cook's new-found "porn" channel

…Amidst all the electronic equipment in this hospital room, there’s one strange device…  What’s it called again?  Right, a TV.  We don’t have any channels at home (haven’t watched any TV at all in the last three years, except in rehab or jail) so this device is quite the novelty for us.  Keoni, of course, has found his own version of “porn”–the Food Network!  He’s jotting down recipe-ideas, so I have no doubt his “therapy” is going to include a quick return to the kitchen.

But I already knew that about him–I have a stool set up and waiting for him in our kitchen, so whenever they release us from Knee-Camp, we’ll pack up our little post-surgery slumber party and return to the comforts of our own bed and our cat and our kitchen. I’m already looking forward to some new recipes from my newly-tall kooky cook.

Posted in Today's File

Tiaras and Carpet Tape

A fellow blogger paid me the lovely compliment yesterday of supposing that I’m constitutionally incapable of being “boring.”  I’d like to imagine that’s so—I certainly haven’t led a monotonous life, and some of the exploits I’ve undertaken puzzle even me, in retrospect…  An episode that definitely falls into that category would be my one-and-only stunt as a Pageant participant.

I should lay the groundwork on this one by saying that “Beauty Pageant” is way way WAY off my radar as an admirable or interesting thing to do.  That’s my opinion now, and it was twenty years ago as well—at least, until a comment from my mother…  I actually have no recollection, now, of exactly what she might have said—in fact, I have no memory of the conversation at all.  The only “memory” that lingers with me is the impression that she’d hinted (or possibly said) that I wasn’t a pageant-kinda-girl.

So?  If she did in fact make such an observation, it was an undeniably accurate assessment of my personality.  And yet…  I was a teenager, she was The Mother, and I had this primal urge to prove her wrong about stuff.  (With very little success, I have to add.)  So guess who jumped feet-first into the Miss Idaho pageant.

courtesy of

Well, actually, that was the year they were trying to re-brand it as a “Scholarship Program,” so it was going by the unwieldy name of “Idaho’s Young Woman of the Year.”  A year or so later they gave up on that and went back to plain old “Miss Idaho.”  My aim in entering wasn’t to WIN, by any stretch of the imagination—I acknowledged my limitations in this arena.  I was the geeky class-president type with a boyishly short haircut, a penchant for ripped jeans and grubby Keds, and no performance talent whatsoever.  (Somehow I didn’t consider Writing a “performance art,” though I’ve since had the pleasure of experiencing a plethora of poetry-slams and wonderfully dynamic author-readings of poetry and literature–so now I know better. Oh well, too late.)

I didn’t plan to win, only to prove I could do it—enter and see it through. Maybe scoop the “Academic” section of the awards.  And since I wasn’t worried about the win, I was (according to my fellow contestants in the first-round home-town competition) rather shockingly carefree in my interactions with the judges.  We all met the judges for a lunch at a local pizza joint, and while the other young ladies were attempting (probably for the first time ever) to approach their pizza daintily with knives and forks, I picked mine up in hand as I always have…  And did the crossword on the back of the menu while we were at it.  (Two of the judges helped with that.)

When we all had to ride in the University of Idaho Homecoming parade, the other girls wore their Homecoming dresses, and I wore my letter jacket.   (I was the only one of us who didn’t freeze my way down Main Street.)  When we had our portraits taken for the printed program and marketing materials, fifteen girls showed up in ball gowns, and one in a suit borrowed from her lawyer-Mother’s closet.  Having gotten myself into the gig on purpose to prove I could be a “pageant kind of girl,” I perversely spent the entire experience refusing to be a Pageant Kind of Girl.

If I'd been permitted to provide the caption for this front-page photo, it would have been along the lines of "WTF?" Notice, though, the lucky number I'd been assigned...

Going into the night of the pageant itself, I knew exactly who the winner would be—a beautiful cheerleader with a truly generous heart, a noteworthy musical talent, good grades, and a sweet and lovely presence about her.  No-brainer; Laura Hansen was the shoo-in.  So I must report… that in the front-page picture the next morning, the gaping mouth of the winner was no simpering demur; it was an honest expression of shock.  I was in for more than I’d really meant to sign on for—I’d intended to see myself through the local-level competition, chalk it up as “something I’d done,” and go home.  The rigors of a state-level competition (and the year-long duties as “Miss Moscow”) had not figured anywhere in my calculations.

Fast-forward six months to the Idaho pageant—this was a whole different game.  Instead of a chummy atmosphere with home-town girls I’d known for years, this was a group of driven and focused young women armed with suitcases of hair products and cosmetics, some of them with “coaches” in tow, who had been training for this competition.  My own preparation had consisted entirely of walking around in my gym-clothes with my new high heels until I could traverse the stage with something resembling a graceful stride, and composing the little ditty about some of my interests & experiences, which (along with a selection of different hats to go with each verse) served as my “talent.”  Oh, and I had bought a new formal dress, having been sternly told that I wouldn’t be permitted a second time to flout the parameters of “formal dress” with my flirty little knee-length number.

The other contestants didn’t take me any more seriously than I took myself, which is just as well.  I was so out of my element it wasn’t even funny.  Which actually made the whole thing pretty funny—I guess my sense of humor is as perverse as I am.  I’ll skip the gory details and jump right to the ultimate yuck-ness of the Pageant night.

The most dreadful portion of the Pageant itself was the “Presence & Composure” element, when we donned our dresses and swanned around the stage in a choreographed number in which we all held sparkly wands trailing silver ribbons.  Please, someone, shoot me now.  I pretty much thought it couldn’t get more humiliating than this insipid display—until the moment, midway through the choreography, when my new dress slid right off my shoulder while I was front-and-center stage.  Okay, “partially topless” just upped the humiliation factor.  I had my hands full of wands, so I kept smiling and swooping until I was at the rear of the stage and could adjust my garb less obtrusively.  I don’t know about my “Presence,” but I will say for myself that I kept my Composure.

taped tiara? (courtesy of

Once backstage, I suffered the glee-disguised-as-sympathy from the other girls, and discovered that everyone knows you’re supposed to tack your gown in place with Carpet Tape. Duh. Now I know that too—but I expect not to need that bit of information in the future.  Who knows, though…  I do have a stubborn, feisty, perverse—and beautiful—little critter of a daughter…  If she insists on an experience like this one, I’ll at least arm her with carpet tape.

Although… I’ll confess to a tiny, devilish bit of satisfaction in remembering the dismay of some of those too-serious Pageant Girls when The-Girl-Whose-Dress-Fell-Off walked away with the Runner-Up Miss Idaho scholarship.  I wouldn’t have traded that for carpet tape after all.

Posted in Family, Today's File

Adventures of The Spermudgeon & The Scribbler

(If you didn’t guess from the title, there’s some adult-ish content here…  Just so you know.)

the "Spermudgeon" tattoo... (with our lucky-13 anniversary worked into the walker)

You’ve no doubt already gathered that I get a kick out of teasing my husband about his age.  He’s wonderfully young at heart (and wonderfully good-humored about my endless ribbing)–and given that he was in college when I was born, we actually both have fun at the expense of our generation-gap.

I was riffing on the subject a while back while we were hanging out with our Tattoo Artist, who jumped in with some contributions of his own… and somehow among the three of us we ended up with a running joke of a “Spermudgeon”–a curmudgeonly “swimmer” so old that it would need a walker.  Next day our Artist showed up with a sketch of the little guy (grey beard and spectacles and walker and all), which became a tattoo just because it tickled us…  But the real question of whether the swimmers are still swimmy hasn’t been of vital importance (heck, we’ve got seven great kiddos between us already) until now–and not quite for the “usual” reasons.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me back up and begin at this story’s REAL beginning.

Anela modeling for California's "No Hate" campaign

Our beautiful second daughter, Anelahiki’alani, is joyfully married to the woman of her dreams, and the two of them are ready to embark on the adventure of Mommyhood!  Of course, it goes without saying that when both members of a couple are prospective Mommies, there are some specific aspects of parental-planning that need to be addressed.  (As Anela wrote about one well-meaning but clueless fertility-advice-giver: No, in our case it really WON’T help to “just relax instead of ‘trying!’”)

Anela’s wife, Sarah, is planning to carry their baby, and the Girls are hoping that the daddy-donation might come from someone in Anela’s immediate family, so their child will be closely related to both of them.  (If you haven’t had reason to think about this topic before, maybe it strikes you as strange; but it’s not an unusual arrangement for couples—regardless of the gender-pairing—who need to seek beyond themselves for a donation of either half of the genetic equation.)  So the Girls asked my husband Keoni if he’d be willing to provide the “missing piece” of Tyler-genes  (of course!—what wouldn’t we do for them?) and with the help of their own clinic in California, they arranged for him to get his “swimmers” tested here in Idaho.

Earlier this week he got a call from Tammy at the fertility clinic near our home, phoning with instructions for his appointment this morning.  I was half-listening to his half of the conversation—“Okay… okay…  okay…  hold on, can I put my wife on the phone? Im not going to tell her that!”  Curious, I took the phone from him, and Tammy good-naturedly repeated to me the instruction she’d just given him: we’d need to practice abstinence for three days before his “collection.”  Wait, say what?!  (Can I revisit that question of what-wouldn’t-we-do? Joking, just joking, Girls. But now you KNOW how much we love you!)

Tammy also told him that he’d have the option of “taking his collection” (a euphemism that sounds disturbingly like something that should happen midway through church) either at home or at the clinic— and of course it’s a no-brainer to guess which one of those options sounded more comfortable to him.

Here’s where we come to the Hazards of Being Married to a Writer…  Because the Scribbler artlessly piped up that she was awfully curious what that whole set-up is like…  And now I know how much he loves ME, because he immediately overthrew the “comfort-zone plan” in favor of the “journalistic adventure,” and declared he’d do it there.

wait... is there an App for that?

Which brings us to this morning, neither of us entirely at ease with the prospect ahead of us, stuck in traffic and realizing we’d be late for the appointment… You won’t be surprised to hear that both of us tend to diffuse discomfort with humor, but the receptionist had apparently had her sense of humor surgically removed.  Keoni apologized for being late, adding that he typically tries to be on time, but in this instance he didn’t want to come prematurely (Come on, Lady, we need a laugh here!)  But with an utterly dead face, she responded, “Okay, sign in here.”  (And then she rather pointedly picked up the pen he’d laid on the counter and jammed it back into the jar where he was obviously supposed to have replaced it.)  Wow, okay.  We’re on our own on this one.

She showed us to the “collection room,” gave us a cup with instructions to write his name on it and leave it at the lab, and swept back to her desk.  Those might be adequate instructions for collecting a cup of pee, but I must say they leave something to be desired as a set-up for this job, with its added psychological factors…  Keoni tried for one more joke (“Is there a time limit?”) but her only answer was the thump of the door closing.

with a label like that, I half expected the drawer to be full of fertility-related medical journals...

Well, our shared sense of humor-and-adventure hasn’t let us down yet, so we locked the door and went exploring.   I’d put on my metaphorical journalist-hat (along with some lacy underthings, in case that might be a help), so we went poking through all the drawers to check out the “Collection Periodicals” provided, turned on the TV (playing some really ridiculous ads for 900-numbers) for a few minutes, and read aloud the Very Seriously Phrased instructions pinned to the wall.  They’re rather severely overcomplicated, with further reference to the typed sheet on the back of the “Andrology Requisition”…

This is clearly an environment where they’re taking the sex out of sex.   Perhaps to some extent that’s an inescapable side-effect of achieving procreation by “assisted methods”—but it’s truly not an inviting room, not a place to put a person at ease to do what needs to be done there.  Bright fluorescent lights, white walls decorated only with a blood-pressure cuff and a framed picture of some mountains, the small TV, and a dentist-chair sort of seat.  Oh, and a small padded rug in front of the chair, possibly for the benefit of anyone (ahem) who’s there in an “assisting” role…

The final admonition on the instruction sheet was the command: “Do not leave the sample at any time.”  (I was half expecting a loudspeaker with the automated voice of an airport announcement: Do not leave your semen unattended at any timeFertility Clinic Security Threat is currently at Level Orange…)  So we dutifully delivered the properly-labeled item to the lab and made our escape!

We haven’t heard back from the clinic yet, so I guess our anxious Girls will have to wait the weekend before we all find out if the swimmers are swimmy enough (or if their walkers are getting tangled on the raceway)…  We’re honored to share in their journey-to-parenthood–if rather more closely involved than might be “usual” for prospective grandparents–and we know that whatever the results of this morning’s Spermudgeon-sample, God’s got a plan for putting our next grandbaby in their arms. One way or another, these two are meant to be Mommies. If there’s a call for more “collections,” though, I think we’ll take care of them at home. The Scribbler’s curiosity has been sufficiently satisfied.