Occasionally with my morning tea I play on the website Game Duel. This international site has all of the regular games for free; solitaire, Crazy 8s, Yahtzee and so forth. After waking up, I enjoy playing against other players as a semi-introduction to the social world, (before I actually have to be wide awake and sociable in the real world.) This morning, while playing Crazy 8s, my other two opponents were texting in Russian. Although they were surely texting trivialities such as “good morning”, “here comes a bad card”, and “nah nah nah nah nah nah”, my heart was immediately struck with fear. In this era of terrorism, and growing up in an age when the Russians were our enemy, I was irrationally frightened they were planning an attack on the US or something else negative. Worse yet, that they could tell who I was through my computer.


When driving through the Deep South in the early 60s, my father would take Route 302 instead of the highway, (which may or may not have been built at that time.) As a child, I was frightened at the attitude towards African Americans. There were “white” and “colored” signs above the bathroom doors, with a significant disparity between the two. I heard the local folk call the African Americans the “n” word, and talk down to them. Their attitude frightened me, and I could not understand why they would do such a thing.


When my brother was born with Rubella Syndrome with a massive cleft palate, developmental delay, hearing impairment and vision impairment, my four-year-old little self loved him to pieces. Not being familiar with all of the intricacies of babies, he looked just fine to me. As we grew, other people’s reactions to him upset me. They often recoiled as though in horror and I would wonder why. Other children called him the “r” word and point and laugh. Through the eyes of my love for him, I didn’t see anything funny about the situation. His mouth may have looked a little funny, but didn’t they see the glorious gleam in his blue eyes?


When my great aunts would visit from Michigan, they would sleep in my room on the big double bed and I would sleep in a cot in my parent’s room. They were elderly, but still had a lot of spunk. My mom would take them dancing at the senior center where they would dance with gusto to their favorite line dances. They were very affectionate women with my family and between themselves. I thought nothing of their holding hands while watching tv, but others talked in hushed whispers. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that Aunt Mina and Aunt Betty were gay, and that they had to hide their “gayness” in the confines of our home because others in the community wouldn’t understand, thinking there was something wrong with them.


Fast forward to our adoption of Marie at the age of 7, who was deaf and had been severely abused. She was a wild one; untamed, disrespectful, destructive, stealing things at the store, and begging from strangers when given the chance. (I learned to stay by her side and intervene before she even got close to anyone unfamiliar.) She refused to wear girl clothes, insisting on wearing boy’s underwear, pants, shirt, shoes and socks. (This caused a slight problem at McDermott Pool, which had a strict “no shirt” policy 15 years ago. Because she insisted on wearing boy’s swimwear, she obviously needed a shirt!) She would tell everyone, (in sign language,) that she was my son. At her annual check up at the age of 8, she tearfully asked her pediatrician if he could sew a penis on her. As a very sympathetic doctor, he understood that her needs were different than other children’s. He gently took slim her hands into his big ones, and looked into her deep blue eyes, (which darted back and forth between his face and myself, who was interpreting what he said in ASL for Marie.) He said that it was possible to sew a penis on her, but that she had to wait until she was fully grown to make that decision. Relieved that at least it was a possibility in the future, she was consoled. In the meantime, she could continue to be a boy without the extra attachment. Since that time, with intense counseling, she confessed she only wants to be a boy was so that men wouldn’t hurt her. She continues to dress and profess to be male, but is not interested in getting the proper anatomical equipment. Her choice of male attire, now plumply filled out in the bust area, has been cause for concern for many. For her, and many other actual transsexuals, life is met with stares and disapproval.


My ever-optimistic brain would like to think that people have such negative reactions for the same reason I was fearful of my Russian opponents this morning; because they don’t know any better. If only everyone would just accept people as they are; to be valued and respected for their uniqueness….



The Ice Prevails


It snowed another 5 or 6 inches last week, and I dreaded going out to clean off my car. The fact that I waited until the day after to clean it promised that an icy mix would be glued to the car, almost impossible to get off. Leaving the house 10 minutes early, all bundled up in winter coat, boots and gloves and brandishing a broom, I made my way through the glistening snow still piled untouched on the front lawn. Taller than my boots, the snow crept in over the top, slid inside and coated my socks, causing instant panic in my feet. I hate to be cold!!

Daringly approaching the car, I pointed my broom expecting ice and frozen snow to be waiting. With one swish of my oversized weapon, the snow fell to the side like tiny cotton balls, sliding off the car with gleaming ease, taunting me with the juxtaposition. Who ever heard of fluffy, lightweight snow, especially the day after a storm? The car was cleaned in a record 4 minutes, including getting all of the snow off the top of the car. A full 6 minutes ahead of schedule, there was plenty of time to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a tea!

Later in the week, frozenness returned as though we were surely visited by Elsa (from the movie Frozen.) I walked taking tiny steps like a ballerina in training, careful not to hurry and slip. Holding my granddaughter’s hand to cross the street, she looked at the street and exclaimed, “Look, Mimi, the street is a big ice cube!” Although her laughter was catchy, I had to be careful not to let mine cause unbalance. Too late…laughing caused me to change my center of gravity and…boom…I plopped right down in the middle of the street. Not injured, I crawled on my hands and knees towards our front yard while worried Rosy repeatedly asked me if I was okay. Because the rule was she had to hold my hand when crossing the street, and she couldn’t due to my positioning, she dutifully placed a hand on my head, grabbing onto my hair like she was grabbing onto a horse’s mane. I was very glad to reach our front door, for several obvious reasons.

Living on a small pond, we have had a long winter of frozen ice. Hockey skaters regularly played their favorite game, and fisherman somehow enjoyed sitting in the cold catching fish. It seemed like a lot of work just to catch one and throw it back, but I am probably minimizing the joy of it.

One thing I learned in Science was that ice expands as it freezes. (The ice in my ice cube trays always used to overflow, causing more difficulty in finagling them out of the old metal ice cube trays.) The ice in the pond is no different. Very often at night, awakening me from a sound sleep would be a loud, guttural groan coming from the pond, unlike any other earthly noise.   Although intellectually I knew it was from the expanding ice, my rapidly awakened brain would immediately think it came from an underworld, (much like the one depicted in the Netflix show Stranger Things.) I would then stay awake, alert, listening for any additional noises that might be supernatural, until drifting back into a troubled sleep.

Looking out the window today, my granddaughter gasped that the ice in the pond was melting, represented by many areas of open water. Typical toddler, she thought it was hilarious. Myself, I was relieved…relieved that maybe the cold weather was abating and the eerie groans from the ice and the ice cube streets were history for 2018. That is, until I caught a glimpse of the weather forecast. Freezing temperature and more snow was yet to come.



Snow and Soap Operas




We have had some frigid weeks, colder than I ever remember. The recent storm buried my car in snow, and eventually a five-foot snow pile lurked behind it. I had learned about “displacement” in science, and usually related it to “if I jumped into a small pool, the water level would rise.” In this instance, each time the snowplow came by, the snow from its big shovel displaced to create a mountain behind my car. Bully snowplows!

Many a time after other snowstorms, I had put on my snow boots and been able to traverse my walkway even if it wasn’t shoveled. It had been a fun challenge, pulling each leg up, out and forward as though walking through fluffy cotton candy. No such luck after this storm! Opening the front door, I tried to step out into the snow, but the cold was debilitating, freezing me in place like Elsa froze her sister in the movie “Frozen”. Hurriedly getting back inside, I vowed to stay housebound until the spring.

Trying to keep the house warm enough was the real test, and our old boiler chugged along continuously to provide a temperature high enough for the pipes not to freeze, but low enough that a second mortgage on the house wouldn’t be necessary to pay the bill. I bundled up in regular clothes, throwing on a bathrobe and slippers for added warmth. The lower household temperature, however, froze the butter I leave on the kitchen counter so it will be soft enough to smooth on my raisin toast. The mornings after the storm found me ripping my toast as I tried to butter each piece, huge lumps of unhealthy butter just sitting there without any chance of smoothing out. Alas, it was the final snowstorm humiliation!

Normally, I like snow when the temperature is reasonable. As a child, I loved to sled and make snowballs. Last month when shopping at Ocean State Job Lot, I found the ultimate, much needed, snow accessory; a box like plastic container with the shape of 6 snowballs inside. Apparently, the eye hand coordination of children these days is so poor that a tool is needed to make snowballs. They no longer have to maneuver their hands to form the balls, but just need to shove snow into the container, shut it, and perfect snowballs would be the result. One would have to assume that such ammunition would far surpass the handmade balls that might fall apart in mid-air were they not so cleverly created.

A gift I received for Christmas has managed to maintain my sanity while housebound. Where I would normally sit and watch television while sipping on tea that gradually cools, (a real problem for me, who only likes tea at a certain temperature,) Hubby bought me a device that keeps the tea at whatever temperature I want. Really! So it was, with contentment, that I braved the cold, bundled up in a velour blanket on a Lazy Boy, sipping my hot cup of tea and watching the real life soap operas. No, not the Housewives of Atlanta or Sister Wives, but the news channels that continue to entertain me with the twists and turns in politics.



Nurse Taking Blood Samples from Patient 590


I have been extremely healthy my whole life. No operations or major illnesses. No broken bones. No need to see my doctor more than annually. Lately, however, I have had to make my way through the maze of medical testing at several different hospitals.

The first thing that amazed me was seeing these very large, comfy chairs, matching the other smaller comfy chairs, in all of the waiting rooms. I could sit on it alone and “spread out” with plenty of room for my purse, phone, and other paraphernalia. However, knowing that the chair was designed for a “larger” person, wouldn’t sitting on it be akin to parking in a handicapped spot, even if there were no “larger” people in the waiting room? Sometimes, the other chairs would be filled, and I viewed that chair being the same as when I drive around and around the mall looking for a non-existent parking space, only to be enticed by the many empty handicapped parking spots in the front of the building. Assuming this case was completely different, I boldly sat in the big chair and fluffed my coat out as though to appear “larger”.

The other thing noticed was that the needles used to draw blood are much thinner and less painful than I remember. A pleasant nurse explained that they have been making them as thin as possible so as to make the blood test more comfortable for the patient. However, before they draw blood, the chair on which the patient sits now has a barrier pulled down in the front of it, ostensibly to make it more comfortable to rest one’s arm. I giggled in my mind that it was there to keep me from jumping up and running away, but I behaved myself and sat still for the experience.

Going for x-rays was a cold experience, literally. Wearing the requisite Johnny, I would lie down on a table that felt like it came from the home of the people in “The Last Alaskans”, which hubby and I watch. Stark, raving icy! They did give me a little lead blanky to cover my “woman parts”, not to warm me up but to preserve my baby making ability. (The train left long ago on worrying about that!) They told me not to move while they took the x-ray, but it can be assumed that my shivering made the x-ray a little blurrier than it was supposed to be!

The most annoying thing is that doctors are now affiliated with certain hospitals. No longer can I conveniently go to Kent for my testing, but need to go to the hospital with which that particular doctor is a member. This can make it mighty inconvenient when the three doctors I have gone to have been associated with different hospitals: Roger Williams, Miriam and RI Hospital, and never the ‘twain shall meet. I need to physically obtain the tests done at one hospital to bring to the doctor who works at another because the hospitals do not communicate with each other. (Whatever happened to Patient Centered Medical Care?) Which brings me to the observation that the Medical Records unit is usually in the basement; the dark, reminiscent of horror movies, lower level. It is always surprising that the people who work there are very pleasant and accommodating, allaying my judgment of the placement of their office.

I have dutifully played the medical roulette game and hopefully my exploration of different options for medical testing is over. I never again want to struggle with the ethical choice of sitting in the “large” chair or not. It’s just too much pressure!


To read about our hilarious and warm relationship, or to read about the success of my 5 children with disabilities, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane



Made it Easy on Myself


A secret was all mine until the news media this year touted it as a “thing”. Years ago, my teenage children would brave the cold and sit outside of Target or Best Buy at 2:00 am on the night of Thanksgiving, waiting for the stores to open early on “Black Friday”. Comradeship galore, they would toast with pumpkin spice Dunkin Donuts coffee, share cookies and sit snuggled under extra blankets in rickety, old, webbed camp chairs. It was an annual social occasion not to be missed. I distinctly remember my son joyously coming home with a television at a 75% discount from Best Buy. (No, it was not a present. He chose to keep it to himself, but the savings was still impressive!) He and his friends chose to shop on Black Friday to get the best price reductions, and no number of aggressive, pushy shoppers or hours long lines to the cash register were going to deter them. Personally, I knew that the same bargains were available on-line, even items that were limited in number in the stores. If a store had a super duper extra inexpensive price and only a few of the items available for purchase, the news would broadcast the pushes, shoves and trampling of shoppers to get to the few treasures available, until the stores wised up and started to pass out numbers outside to those waiting line. However, every Black Friday I could quietly and daintily order these same items all with the push of a button; “add to cart”. I would sit happily at my computer, sipping spiced tea, and gleefully order all of the preselected items, the best from the best at the cheapest of the cheapest, advertised in the Thanksgiving newspaper. This past Black Friday was no different, except for the fact I was no longer a clever pioneer, just part of the general public, ordering on-line, as highlighted by the news.

Christmas is always a hectic time of year, especially with children. We have a very large family of five children and four grandchildren. Each of hubby’s sister and brothers has children of his/her own, and, as we have aged, great- nieces and great-nephews have joined the fold. That is what makes Black Friday a big, fun economic puzzle, searching amidst the bargains for a present for each person. Shopping for Christmas used to be spread out over the entire month of December, and I would often purchase a gift forgetting something different had already been bought. By buying everything on the same day, it was easy to keep track, and even easier to guarantee each item was at its lowest price. Whoopee! Diet coke, popped corn, and Christmas Carols, soon replaced morning tea as my shopping continued in earnest. In the spirit of the holiday, good presents were ordered on that day instead of spending a month trying to find “the best”. (I learned a long time ago that my perception of the best might not necessarily be the best to the gift receiver, so I lightened up on myself.)

At the end of the day, my credit card was put away and my tired typing fingers rested. Pleased with my purchases, I smiled to myself with success. Wrapping paper and name tags sit by the front door so each gift can be wrapped as it arrives and placed in a spare room.

As I sit here, heart aglow with cheer for the coming holidays, my advice is simple; be kind to yourself, whatever holiday you practice. “Perfection” is a stressful state of mind. Good is good, and be confident in that. Relax. After all, holidays are meant to be enjoyed!


Remembering Mom


A memorial service to honor our deceased family and friends was held last week. I often think of my mom, but never with such a sustained respect as last week. Lighting a memorial candle and watching the wick spring to life with fire made me think of HER life, and all the wonderful things she had done, always with a smile on her face and never with a complaint. Tears slid down my cheeks and were wiped away silently, inconspicuously. How is it that after all of these years her memory can still cause such emotion?

In her honor, I decided to treat myself to a day at the mall. I hadn’t been in a while because, unlike when I was younger and had children to buy for, my own wardrobe was overflowing with clothes and I had nothing to shop for. Or so I thought.

Entering the mall, decorated for Christmas with festive frills and lights, the atmosphere welcomed me, and I felt a spring in my step and cheer in my heart, just as if my mom were by my side as in “olden times.” I meandered into Macy’s, being the first store I came to, looking for the magnificent bargains like mom and I did. We had a knack for finding something spectacular at a deeply discounted price, and this trip was no different. Humming to myself as I browsed the numerous sales rack, my radar led me to the 50% off the 50% off discounted price. My kind of sale! There were many awesome clothes from which to choose, and soon I was purchasing a blue and green sweater for only $4.49. Pleased with my purchase, (something comfy to wear in the winter,) I smiled brightly leaving the store, feeling like the Cheshire Cat.

It was after noon and my stomach led me to the food court. I couldn’t help but buy myself some General Tsao’s chicken, our favorite meal. The ironic part was, my mother always told me she would “have just a little bit of mine” instead of getting her own order. I resented this at the time because I would always walk away unsatiated. Then, I sneakily learned to order double the chicken so she could still share my order without realizing more chicken had been added. She was happy because she wanted to be frugal for lunch and not spend any money, and I was happy because she was happy! On this date in the mall, it made me a little sad that I didn’t need to order extra chicken, but I did think of her as I wolfed down the meal, smiling between bites in her memory.

I walked by Bath and Body Works, a store into which I had to drag her. According to her morals, a bar of soap was the best thing to wash with, so why waste money on frivolities? It was difficult to convince her that the Sweet Pea or Vanilla Cinnamon scents were relaxing for me, and I would feel so much sweeter after using them in the bath. So, I only took her in when I had a coupon and there was a deeply discount sale. Trying to get her to take a bottle to try, she always gave it back and said she was fine, thank you, soap did the job just as well. On this date, I purchased several new holiday body washes, and I didn’t even have a coupon!

Walking slowly by the stores window-shopping, the tinkling of the piano keys was heard from the middle of the mall. Coincidentally, the pianist was playing live music, and I sat to listen. If my mom had been with me, she would have swayed to the music, and sung the words to the old songs. Often, she would got up and dance enthusiastically. Most children may have been mortified if their parent did that, but my mom was not just ANY parent, she was special in so many ways. She exuded joy, and if that joy inspired her to get up and dance, then so be it. It was that joy that inspired my life so dramatically, and continues to let me appreciate seeing the sunbeams streaming brightly through the clouds and the love when my grandchildren come running to me for a kiss and a hug. It is the kind of joy that makes your heart tingly and the sides of your mouth turn into a smile. I was so fortunate to have had her inspiration.


To read about our hilarious and warm relationship, or to read about the success of my 5 children with disabilities, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane





My children who are adopted are of mixed races, which has instigated a lot of joking over the years about how much we are like each other. I remember shopping at Walmart with my daughter, Dinora, when she was about 6 months old.  Sitting in the infant seat, she exhibited every characteristic of a child of Mayan Indian heritage.  The woman in front of me turned around and looked at her, then looked at me, then looked back at her. “She certainly must look like her father!” she said, in kind of a huff. Incorrect, of course, she was just like us.

Three of my children have brown eyes, just like me! Two have blue eyes, just like their dad! Amazing, just like each other!  All of us love ice cream, especially cookie dough, which was hard to keep in the freezer, even though I would hide a carton way in the back under the pork chops, figuring the children hated pork chops.  They didn’t hate them enough to look behind them to find our special treat.

Swimming is something we have in common, (mostly because we live on a lake.) Dinora was able to swim by the age of 18 months old. She used to jump off the side in the deep end of the community pool with me. Everyone was shocked, saying it was dangerous for her to be so deep. But she was so tiny that even if she jumped off the lower end she still wouldn’t be able to touch the bottom, so what was the difference? My son, Francis, was on a swim team, and won a medal for the fastest swimmer.  Steven spent most of his time by the water, pretending to be the Crocodile Hunter with the ability to swim quite far if he saw one of his prey. Angel was a great swimmer, as was Marie.  Many a time Marie and I would take floats and swim back and forth across the lake.  (Okay, so using float was cheating, but the comradeship was worth it.) Hubby, I, and all of my children,  are natural swimmers, just like each other!

Three of my children are creature lovers, anything from earth worms to boa constrictors to the every day dog, cats and bunnies. It is as though any living creature is a fascination to them, handled with care and put back into their “natural environment”, a special expression of Steven’s. One day, while camping at six years old, he found a common garter snake, hunting it down as only Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, could do.  On his haunches, he followed the snake through the rocks and eventually wrangled it onto a stick. By then, a crowd of children had gathered, squealing, “A snake!  Yeeeewww.  A snake! Steven gently showed the snake, saying “Isn’t she a beaut?  Look at that great color that can hide in the forest. Nature is amazing!”

With the exception of me and their dad, everyone loves scary movies. Okay, so maybe they aren’t like us in this manner as hubby turns away anytime he sees blood or monsters on tv and I hide under a pillow anytime I hear eerie music. We can’t ALWAYS be the same!

We all love to go apple picking, to see the colored leaves in the autumn, to watch a sunset at the beach, to swim in the waves, and to help those less fortunate.  Francis was building houses with Habitat for Humanity despite his blindness and Dinora raised money for a soup kitchen in her native Guatemala.  We all worked on making sandwiches which would be delivered to Cross Rhodes. With all of these similarities, of COURSE we are related! And so we have built MY family…

Now they are building theirs. Francis has a three year old daughter who physically looks JUST LIKE HIM, (minus the vision impairment!) Dinora has a young daughter and son who physically looks JUST LIKE HER. And Steven has a three year old who physically looks JUST LIKE HIM, massive head of kinky, curly hair and all! Angel is in touch with his biological family who physically look JUST LIKE HIM. All of the similarities we fostered as a family cannot compare to the fact that their flesh and blood look similar to them. But that is not what they focus on. They bond over similarities…Steven’s daughter really loves animals and strawberries, she MUST be his daughter! Dinora’s son is great at drawing and her daughter is a little diva, enjoying make-up and nail polish, (so much like her diva mom.) Francis’s daughter loves vanilla pudding and swimming in the waves in California! Go figure!

The truth is, family is not what is built by flesh and blood, but by common interests, tastes, morals and a whole lot of love. Of COURSE we are all related, we are a family!



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