The Pandemic Experience


It has been almost a year since I last posted here. Much has happened but little of interest to anyone living outside this house.  I wonder when people ask what we’ve been doing, how well they know us. The lives in this little home run to the very ordinary, school and work, home and sleep, repeat. In the past year, the most exciting bits revolved around my oldest child moving to Phoenix AZ to attend Culinary School. It was an enjoyable experience for him. The pandemic occurred just as his classes ended, and after waiting around for six weeks to try and get an externship, he decided to move back home and take a chance on getting a job here. I wasn’t convinced on May 13th that his chances were better here, but I kept my mouth shut because I wanted to see him, wanted him closer during this pandemic. It turned out to be perfect timing. A beautiful new restaurant on the river was just opening, and they hired him at his interview. He’s been able to move into an apartment with some friends from high school, has been working sixty-plus hours a week as the restaurant struggles to fill all the positions, and is happily piling up money for a down payment on a newer car.

As for me, I learned quite a bit about myself and my family in the last few months.

Under our brand spanking new Superintendent of Schools, our district announced its shut down on March 15th. He’d been in office for just over one year; he was the principal that had hired me and whom I worked for seven years. He was born to lead the schools through this mess; I am sure of that.

Admittedly, on March 16th, I was downright giddy, so happy to be sent to my room, so to speak. Though I continued teaching through the end of the school year, working from home was enlightening. I am proud of how quickly our Special Ed Department got a plan in place and started building student specific lesson plans to be included on classroom learning boards.  By March 30th, we were up and running. Digital assignments, one on one google meets, lots of research, hours spent finding just the right BrainPop video or educational game to go with each subject, copying and cutting, making games and activities to help keep them occupied at home. I had no trouble filling my usual school hours plus some during my time at home. Without the usual distractions of recess supervising, lunch supervising, handling emotional outbursts, I found I could really dig in and research and find incredible content personally suited for each of my kiddos.

The time spent at home also taught me much about myself. It was time,  and at the end of the school year, I gave my notice over one of the final Google meetings with superiors. It was less painful than I imagined it would be, just as the pandemic was more healing than I could ever have anticipated.

Due to our small size and seclusion, the little disasters the pandemic wreaked in larger cities mostly missed us. We stayed home and watched the slow unraveling of larger metropolises with concern and disbelief. Turns out our little gang here are rockstar quarantiners. We got along well together, played many card and board games, and kept to ourselves with little anxiety. We discovered one daughter excelled in working at home with the freedom of going her own pace. The other struggled without the frame of getting up, going to school, attending class, and working with teachers and friends. As a result, I will be homeschooling again this fall, the first time in over ten years. One happily home and already working at her own pace and one delightedly returning to teachers and friends at the end of the month. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to some trepidation in one returning to school. However, she’ll be supplied with masks and all the necessities and will find herself showering every day after school. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Not for the first time, I’ll admit, I’m pleased to be living in North Dakota.



It Should Be Easy

It should be easy to write about meeting my brother.

It’s merely a matter of sitting in front of a keyboard and pressing one key after another, writing events as they happened, bringing it to life on the page, the emotions of the day.

It should be fun to talk about how handsome he looked, standing, waiting for his bride. I could note how fine the weather was, how perfectly rustic the small island setting. How incredibly beautiful and sweet the bride was.

I could tell you that funny story about how we ended up in Missouri and had to turn around and barely made it to the wedding on time. The beautiful backroads of Arkansas.

I have quite a lot to say about the odd little town of Eureka Springs. I’ve never experienced a place like that. If you find yourself driving on those small narrow roads, stop and eat at Ermilios, it’s worth the hour-long wait. Down on the main drag, the Local Flavour was hands down my favorite.


I need to talk about meeting the woman who pieced my story together. The one who knew the players and zeroed in on mom long before anyone was ready to admit it. She brought me a picture of my grandparents taken three weeks before I was born and also a new photograph of my mom with her handwriting on the back. She saved the day at the wedding, tracking down my cousin and his wife and introducing us. After we had been talking for a good thirty or more minutes, it was my cousin’s wife who tracked down my brother to bring him over for pictures.

It’s a blur, still all a blur.

He was charming and gracious. In retrospect, his wedding day probably wasn’t the day to show up. Then again, maybe it was the perfect day, he was busy, and I wanted to hide.

Remember all those years ago when I blogged on Me and Richard? When I talked about wanting to be seen, wanting to live? Guess what, it’s exhausting.

It’s exhausting to be alive, to be in the game, to be part of the play. It’s hard to translate fifty years of mixed emotions facing down someone angrier with your mother than you are.

Cold-Blooded Murder?

She asked me outright, “Have you thought perhaps she killed him?”

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I think I stood across the counter from her staring blankly for a good minute.

My cousin stared back at me, unblinking.

I had just shared the story of my dad’s death last November.

Let me backtrack a bit.

My cousin and I were in our rental in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, planning to attend my half-brother’s wedding the next day.

I had picked her up in Kansas City at her airport hotel the day before. We’d passed a pleasant day driving down to Arkansas, getting lost more than once, and talking like we’d known each other a lifetime. In truth, we had just met face to face for the first time. She is my second cousin on my birth mother’s side. She is the match I contacted on Ancestry and the woman who put my birth story together for me. She probably should have been a detective. She is a slim, tiny woman with beautiful silver hair and a subtle quiver of energy about her. She just asked me if I thought my dad was murdered.

Possibly a little alarmed at my prolonged silence, she added, “I mean, I doubt he changed his will without some kind of encouragement, she was moving her kids and grandchildren in, she knew he was going to have the shoulder surgery. He wasn’t a young man, and that is a pretty complex surgical procedure.”

I had not thought of it that way.

It’s hard to remember, did we think of it at all that week or did someone voice it later?

He was dead and embalmed before I made it into the state. In retrospect, allowing that may have been a mistake. But it also may not have been avoidable. A wife, even a second wife, holds all the cards, I ‘ve learned, and learned, and learned again.

My dad’s second wife is an evil, grasping woman. Concerned that she be seen as a ‘good Mormon,’ she runs around declaring her right to everything my mother and father owned. Lord knows, I’ve been told enough times by my lawyer sister in law, that it’s true. She owns everything.

Fine, it can be true, but it will never be right.



It’s Alive!

Week 34 (Nov 24)

Despite our early cold weather and having to move the plant inside, I’ve harvested a good dozen tomatoes, seeds are fermenting for three days before rinsing and drying. I have enough to share with my siblings and some friends that are interested. A successful experiment.



Week 10 (Aug 20)

Absurdly Excited!




Week 10 (Aug 19)

I have blossoms! Six so far, I already feel successfull, even without the tomatoes. I’m hoping our weather holds good enough to grow a couple.



Week 7

The trip to AZ was good for my little tomato! A friend from work took good care of her and look at her now!

I planted 4-5 little seeds.

Do you see my little sprout?

Week 3 (July 2)

He is starting to look more like a tomato plant. No others sprouted, boo. Next February I shall attempt a planting on a bigger scale. That’s when mom always started hers in the greenhouse, to be able to take full advantage of Idaho’s short growing season.

Stepping into Real Life

I got trolled a few weeks ago, pretty hard. It was at one o’clock in the morning, and I was very proud of myself when I woke up the next morning and realized it hadn’t bothered me hardly at all. Just the nusiance of it mainly. I remembered some of the first times when they could make me cry. Now I only block their sorry asses from my beautiful yard.



I thought about that for several days. I thought about a time about six years ago when an actor somehow really pulled me out of my head and made me want more than what I was settling for. I thought about how far down that road I’ve come. Thought about the dead ends I’ve discovered and about how far there still is to go. Mostly I thought about how much I’ve learned about myself. How chickenshit I am. How emotionally hobbled I’ve lived. How naive I continue to be. That’s a hard one to shake. How long I’ve lived without emotion. Remember how my first concert caught me so off guard? They’re still doing it to me with their new album.


I’ve started pinpointing all the things I do in my life to bring pleasure because I spend so much time doing what I should do instead of what I love to do. I’m taking baby steps to remedy that. Thank you, Mr. Armitage. Thank you, BTS



Are they really what has given me the gumption to step out of my head and into daily life. Are they really the glimmer of light I needed to try and stay out of my head in the day instead of retreat into waking fantasy? I certainly believe they are a piece of the puzzle.


I’ve been back from Arkansas for three weeks now. Yes, I went. I’m struggling to write about it. Spread out all the tangled strings of fifty years of emotion. It wasn’t what I expected, it was better. And worse. I let myself down, but others involved stepped up in magnificant ways. I’ve written a preliminary blog about it but it isn’t right yet. It’s just words. Words about the side of adoption I don’t hear much about. I was thinking about those shows on TV where they reunite people and most of the times it’s tears and excitement. What if it’s not? What if it’s embarrassment and anger? What if it’s disappointment and disinterest?  What if it’s awkward?

Like so many things, this bit of my life didn’t play out like I expected, like I saw on TV, says a genuine child of the seventies.


Coming Soon


Planting Tomatoes



It’s the Little Things that Get You

I went to the storage unit yesterday. I’d bought a hammock stand and wanted to find the hammock. It’s also past time for the girls to change over from winter to summer clothes. In our shuffling and looking I noticed two things, one I haven’t seen for nine years and the other I didn’t know I had.

Early this spring, my college friend contacted me wanting to get her hands on some tomato plants my parents sold at their nursery. It was a type of tomato they had propagated themselves, it was trendy in their town in Idaho. They sold thousands of tomato plants every year. I told her I didn’t know if they existed anymore. Mom didn’t sell the seeds, and I didn’t know if the Witch has any at the house.  I spent a moment being annoyed over losing yet another thing of mom and dads then let the feeling go and forgot about it. Until today, today, I looked through an old Tupperware container filled with bags of seeds. All the wildflower mixes we once sold at our garden center. A quarter pound of only Dames Rocket seed! I’m a serious flower child. I sorted out packets of sunflower seeds (I was going to grow sunflower playhouses for my kids when they were young, never happened.) California poppies, Hollyhocks, and Sweet Williams and then, right there, just lying in the bottom of the mostly empty box I found this.img_3428

I remember the day mom handed them to me like it was yesterday. I was waiting impatiently at the kitchen counter as she scraped a few seeds off the parchment paper where she was drying them. As she dumped them into the tiny bag and carefully labeled it with a permanent marker, she admonished me. “I don’t give these to just anyone!” She smiled at me.


“I know mom.” I bounced my tired eight-month-old on my hip. I was thinking about the long drive and even longer flight in front of me with my two kids.

“Start them in a south-facing window in March, maybe February. You could probably get away with that in Pittsburgh.”

I never got around to it in Pittsburgh.

To be honest, it’s the handwriting.

It gets me every time.

Other things on the list-

I bought myself some Chanel No 5 because my birth mom preferred it. Every time I spray it on, I smell the subtle (cheap?) notes that they must have used to make the perfume Charlie. I’m pretty sure Charlie was some kind of an attempted knock off of Chanel No 5. Charlie was mom’s favorite perfume growing up before she became unable to tolerate scents. It’s like wearing both their favorites.

Facebook memories, ugh. I don’t use FB a lot, but when I do, it remembers. Her messages were like bits of conversations.

You didn’t stay long enough! I wish you lived closer! I love you!

How did you manage to forget the box of jams I set out? Dad and I will bring them to Christmas.

This reminds me of you.

You have memories with Arlene.

Strawberry Milkshakes. The only food that makes chemotherapy tolerable.

Uncontrollable swearing, Shit for spiders, shit shit shit for fast spiders, Hell for snakes (the rubber ones she hid in her own strawberry patch to scare away birds), Dammit to Hell, ED! when he pretended he couldn’t hear her.

It’s the little things.


Coming soon on the blog!

The trip to Arkansas

Was it Murder?

Carly grows Tomatoes



Enviable Innocence


the real thing
Many years ago…



My youngest is twelve.

She loves BTS as only a twelve-year-old girl is capable.

She will defend and adore them to her last breath, happily annihilating all of your protestations.

You will LOVE them. There is no reason not to.

Resistance is futile.

Resisting her or them, both impossible.

Last week I saw this tweet, and it made me laugh, I shared it with our little Family Army, the girls and I.

Okay, I was thinking of all the women (and men) trampling each other to get a chance to teach Jin a naughty thing or two. I admit it!

Youngest child’s reaction-

(Laughter) But what could I possibly teach Jin? He already knows Korean.

Mom laughed a little harder, but her heart expanded mightily!

In this world, in this day and age, with everything out there trying to strip a child’s innocence and humanity, somehow this one still retains that childlike joy and pure love.


Coming soon on the Blog

It’s the Little Things that Get You

Arkansas Trip






Today is Mother’s Day.

This day, perhaps more than any other day of the year carries such varied emotions. For some, it’s joyful, a celebration of the best part of their lives. For others, a reminder of abject failure. Failure in their body, in their lifestyle, in their hearts, in their actions, a woman has so many options when it comes to failing at motherhood. Optimists say motherhood is what you make of it. Realists say motherhood is the hardest job you’ll ever love. Pessimists say it is an impossible expectation placed on women.


Here’s the good news.

We’re all right.

Motherhood is all of those things.

This week I remembered one of my significant failings as it pertains to motherhood.

Yesterday I read a somewhat cryptic post from a college friend and sent her a private message to see if she was ok. She’s a single mom with four adopted children. Her oldest who is the same age as mine recently got married and will make her a grandmother later this year. Her second to the oldest, a girl just sixteen, gave her a near heart attack last week when she snuck out of a hotel in Orlando to meet a cute boy she just met.  They hung out making paper airplanes. Besides the heart attack, she almost got expelled and learned some valuable life lessons. Thankfully she survived the learning process. Both of them did.


I was laughingly addressing my younger friend as grandma when I was assailed by a memory. An old memory, rusty, sharp edges, and a bit vague on the details. A very long time ago this friend asked me to write a letter of recommendation for her in an adoption process. For reasons I’ve only recently begun to understand, I couldn’t do this for her. In the end, I also couldn’t tell her no. I wrote from my own fear, loss, and confusion. The adoption did not go through. My heartbroken friend called me, devastated by my knife in her back.

Now, my recollection of the events is hazy at best. It is entirely because of her that we still speak. Her forgiveness was key. It’s only been this past year as I’ve found my birth parents, contacted the children that grew up with them and began meditating that I’ve started to untangle my difficult upbringing. I begin to understand the scared little girl that has run the show for so many years. I’m only now beginning to disarm her.


Today I’m thankful for all the mothers I’ve known and haven’t known. I’m grateful for friends who have shown me motherhood that looks very different from mine. I’m thankful for women who share their struggles and speak their stories. It’s through sharing that we learn we are not alone in our struggles or our situation. Through sharing, we connect and are stronger. We are less likely to be felled by ridiculous, shaming  absolutes. We are free to mother in our own style and show how powerful every mother is. woman-happiness-sunrise-silhouette-40192

A Safe Place

No, Ron. Never.

I was looking at safe/panic rooms, and this gif came up. It resonates with me on a wholly limbic level. I wonder how many times this has been playing inside me while on the outside all you see is this.

jen and me
Me at Nineteen. The serene smile already perfected over years of fake it till you make it.

Though I’m making great strides with myself, I am in a constant state of panic these days.

My brother’s wedding is in three weeks, and I’ve told him I’m going to be there. When I said that I didn’t realize Ron Weasley would be my plus one.  I’m not ready!

Too bad.

I’m trying to do better at being a woman of my word instead of a people pleaser. It’s a tough gig for someone who likes to keep people happy. People at work, people at home, people on the internet, people I stalk on Facebook whom  I haven’t met, people who can’t be pleased no matter what, AND people who are dead.

(Dust hands) That should cover it.

Aye, aye, aye…

I’ve decided to work next fall, but a less punishing schedule and fewer hours. I’ve told myself it is my job to also use my time more wisely, and when people ask me to work for them, I’m to say, “I’m working my other job that day.” That’s it, nothing more, shut your mouth and walk away.

Today I had fun putting together a box for a reader. I autographed the first book ever. I hope she enjoys reading it and all the little surprises I slipped between the pages. PLUS some ND goodies. I wonder if it’s more the relief of a promise kept than the fun of it? Whatever mix of the two, it made for a good day.

This was also a good week for BTS, Billboard’s BEST GROUP (beating out Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5 and Panic at the Disco!) and top SOCIAL ARTIST! Let’s all celebrate by watching their new music video Boy With Love guest starring Halsey.


They ROCKED the Billboard stage and Army was there in full glory puzzling the rest of the performers with the BTS Fan Chant. LOVE IT! My girls and I are a bit sad we aren’t going to a stadium this weekend or next… sigh. NEXT YEAR, yeah, we’re totally going again, when this isn’t such a good depiction of us.



On the writing front, I’m considering releasing a book called Oasis. It’s an erotic novel that I really love. Stupid Chapter 10 is still giving me a pain when I read it, so I’m considering a few small changes, but otherwise, it’s a pretty cool story. The main characters are a disenchanted Knight of the Crusades and a woman sold into an Arabic harem as a teenager who has done her time and is heading back home to England on her stolen horse. The most beautiful horse I could find for her. A Lusitano Silver Buckskin Stallion named Belial. Belial

I want to write about adoption as well but haven’t decided if I should approach it as Fiction or Non-Fiction. Feeling the influence of all the K-drama’s I’ve been watching, I even thought about writing the story of a Korean who arrives in Seoul for the first time at the age of 38. So many possibilities.

But first, my younger brother’s wedding. Maybe an afternoon with my Mom’s oldest sister, and finally meeting the cousin who helped me put all the pieces together on Ancestry.  I hope this roller coaster has shoulder straps. Where are my sunglasses? Hmm, maybe a bucket by my feet, a perfect playlist peppered with K-pop…






Head or Heart?

I’m in a learning phase.

A dreaming place.

A chapter of curiosity.

A crossroad, if you will.

I’ve been here before perhaps more than I realize.

I’ve told the school that I do not plan on returning except as an occasional substitute. Since stating that in February, some things have changed and other job opportunities in the school have opened up. Now that I’m pushed to my breaking/leaving point, they are asking me what I would like to do. Honestly, now I’m not sure.

How is that possible?

It’s possible because I know what I can do at the school. It’s familiar. I know how much money I’ll make, how may hours I’ll work. I know I’ll pour all my creativity and energy into it and have none left for writing or housework. I can work the hell out of this job, that I know.

I’ve recently investigated a wellness place and if I could afford to visit weekly, I know the results would be amazing but the cost is prohibitive. But, if I worked full time in the fall, I could afford it.  That, my brain knows.

Here’s where it’s gets complex. My heart just isn’t in it. My heart wants to write, wants to daydream, wants to blog. She wants to paint the walls gray and install new hardwood, and repair the AC. Of course, my heart can’t guarantee I’ll be able to take trips, go to concerts, or afford the spa. She just wants what she wants. She’s not so worried about the numbers. She believes if we love what we do, what we love will come to us.


Ive been working on living more from my heart, trying to let it guide my day to day doings. Sometimes it is a spectacular success but most times I flip back into my head without even noticing. It’s not so easy, walking around with one’s heart wide open. Triggers happen. Plans fail. People are so freaking hard! And don’t even get me started with how much my brain hates living from my heart. I am my own toughest critic.

Technically, I have until August 1st to decide.

Head or Heart?

Photo by Yohann Lc on Unsplash