double crochet

There is always something that sticks with children, even long after they are grown, that was taught by their parents. For me, that’s crocheting. My mom would sit for hours curled up under a blanket watching a movie with me crocheting yet another afghan or blanket. The rose colored yarn mixed with white yarn intertwined with pastel soft green to create a heavy double crocheted blanket. She used her long knobby fingers to move the crochet hooks in and out of the yarn, looping two or three loops on the end and then pulling it through. Loop, loop, pull, loop, loop, pull, for hours.

After awhile, I wanted in on the fun and towards the end of my elementary school years I decided I wanted to learn. I sat right beside her on the couch as she showed me how to loop the yarn in between my pointer finger and middle finger and then around my pinky on my left hand as I held the crochet hook and looped the yarn around my pinky finger on my right hand. I pushed, I pulled, I looped, I pulled some more, but my blanket had bulging spots where the yarn stacked up too high because of too many loops; or it had a large hole where I had too much slack on the yarn. Regardless, it was my first blanket I double crocheted with my mom and it was beautiful.

After that I got pretty good at making small, very small blankets for my cat. In reality they were the size of pot holders and were demoted from cat blanket to shag carpet for my doll house. In the meantime, my mom made me a large white blanket with rose colored doily trim that framed a small pastel green basket in the middle. Rose colored flowers with white centers dotted the blanket, the petals sticking up giving the blanket great texture. The basket was crocheted and then tacked on standing out amongst the flowers. To show off her great talents she also made me a matching doll blanket and pillow for my doll cradle. I still have the large blanket and use it when reading a good book. It’s heavy and surprisingly soft, which tells me my mom only used the good yarn. My step-daughter now has the doll blanket and pillow. It looks as if it were made yesterday despite the use it has gotten out of it in the last 18 years.


stuck in character

After moving in with my mom in a fairly large city in comparison to my small town existence, I quickly got involved in their theatre department. I had dreamed of becoming an actress since elementary school and finally I was attending a school that actually had a theatre department that put on plays three times a year! I was thrilled. After auditioning for my first play, I landed a role as a Jewish child locked up in a Natzi camp. The play was called, I Never Saw Another Butterfly. In this play I had to wear full on stage makeup, spray paint my hair brown (there weren’t any red headed Jews) and wear drabby torn clothes with a yellow star pinned to it. I even had to master a Jewish accent.

The set was black with a slanted elevated stage in the shape of a star, the gels casted dark blues and purples on the stage, while each character performed a monologue about what it was like to be a child in a camp. The monologues were based from real life accounts told by children who created a book while they were in the camp. This play was so dark and dreary that it took me a while to get out of character.

I remember my mom picking me up from play practice after our first dress rehearsal stunned by my makeup and facial expression. All the way home, I couldn’t even crack a smile. When we arrived home, my mom took a picture of me in full make up and I couldn’t even smile for the camera.

In the shower I envisioned myself washing away the Jewish child locked in the camps as I watched the brown hair spray and makeup go down the drain. It wasn’t until after my shower that I felt like Jessie, the girl living in a basement apartment; free.

I believe this is the play that got me into a lot of trouble. At this time I had reconnected with an old step-mom of mine and had invited her to the play. She was a wonderful free-spirited woman who wanted to go when my mom went. They picked our Saturday performance. My dad and family were coming but didn’t want to tell me what night for fear of making me nervous. Our Thursday and Friday performances came and went with no families there to greet me at the end. My heart sank and my stomach churned. How would my father react to seeing both of his ex-wives at the same play with his new girlfriend in tow? I tried not to worry about it as I gave my performance. At the end my Dad, his new girlfriend, my sister, my grandma, my mom, and his ex-wife all greeted me at the same time. I went outside to say goodbye to my step-mom and then went back in to see a red hot dad standing next to his girlfriend and my mom. I knew I was in a world of trouble, but was it really my fault?

That following weekend was my weekend with my dad and before he even picked me up Saturday morning, he sat me down in my mom’s living room and gave me a lecture I will never forget. Apparently I should have thought it through better when inviting old lovers of his that I happened to have bonded with. Oh well.

you hurt my mommy!

The best story my mom ever told was about me at the age of four years old. It was my mom’s 27th birthday and also a family reunion where for the first time all of her siblings were together under the same roof with their father, my grandpa. My aunt from Texas, California, and Michigan were there along with my three uncles. My three cousins were there as well. My grandpa’s double wide trailer was full of laughing adults and children all there for a good time.

After eating spaghetti and watching my mom giggle a lot after a few drinks, it was time for the cake. Let me preface this by explaining how protective I was of my mom. I can remember from a young age being afraid that something bad would happen to her. I only got to see her every other weekend because my dad had custody of me and that’s how it was worked out in the courts. During the two weeks I didn’t see her, I just had it in my mind that something terrible was going to happen to her and I would never see her again.

Everyone huddled around the round table as the candles were lit on my mom’s white birthday cake. After she blew them out, someone took their finger and smeared white icing on my mom’s face. I immediately freaked out and started screaming bloody murder thinking someone had just mutilated my mom’s face. I can remember her taking me to the bathroom, sitting me on the sink as she washed her face off. The whole time she is laughing and cooing at me trying to calm me down. I remember her handing me seashell shaped soaps to look at as a distraction.

It’s funny how intuitive children are. I always thought something bad would happen to her. A few days after her 49th birthday she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, she passed away two months later. Something bad did happen to my mom just as I suspected.

Everyone wishes for a white Christmas; well my family does. We got more than we asked for. The snow fell, and fell, and fell; for days it snowed and snowed. My family started to call and ask if we should post pone Christmas. What? I thought it was ridiculous. Then, Christmas Eve service at church was canceled. The one year I got my mom to agree to go with me, they cancel it. Figures. Despite the snow, Christmas day my family made it to my paternal grandmother’s for our traditional George Christmas.

I’m a nervous passenger as it is, so the ride there was pretty nerve wracking for me. I just had to keep telling myself to breathe and put all my trust in the Lord that he would get us there safely; and He did.

That weekend, as it kept snowing, I wanted to take my mom to her mom’s for our Christmas together and I wasn’t going to let a little snow cause us to miss it. My husband and I loaded the gifts in the car, picked up my mom, and set out on the 45 minute drive there. The roads were terrible, causing my little car to fish tail every once in a while as it hit a slick patch. My mom bit her nails the whole way, while I prayed and took deep breaths. My step-daughter sat quietly and looked at books as if this were a normal trip to Grandma’s house. Every once in awhile I would scream, my husband would yell at me for scaring him, and my mom would chime in defending both of us. I don’t know how she managed that but it always worked. She would make us both feel like we were right and that it was okay for our feelings. We did make it there safely and were greeted by a shocked grandma snowed in for the winter in a nice cozy home full of warm Christmas cheer.

this is not a test

Even though I live in the Midwest, I have never seen a tornado in person. But I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard:
“Beep… beep… beep… This is not a test. The weather center in Pleasant Hill has issued a tornado warning. A tornado has been sighted… Please go to the lowest level and take shelter.”

To this day when I hear this, my heart starts pounding, I breathe faster, and I can feel my blood pressure in my ear drums. When I was younger, I would cry when I heard the interruption on the television. There was one spring when I was in middle school where the sirens screamed, the television went blank and the only thing my mom and I heard was, “This is not a test…”

My mom screamed, “Oh shit!”

“What do we do Mom?”

Of course I knew what to do in a normal situation, but we lived on the third floor of an apartment building. I had no idea where to go or what to do. There wasn’t a laundry facility close enough for us to run to and because the stairs were outdoors, there was no hallway either. So we went to the center of our apartment where there were no windows: the bathroom.

We each grabbed a cat and threw them in the bathroom. Then we looked out the windows, heard the sirens screaming, the computer voice on the television telling us to take cover, grabbed a blanket, some candles, and flew to the bathroom. We sat in the bathtub, candles lit, lights out (which we could have had the lights on, we had electricity still) each holding a cat and holding our breath. Our eyes were huge, mouths agape, the veins in our necks throbbing, with fear in our voices. Never had we been through such a weather predicament together before. We sat in the bath tub until our legs were numb and mom was itching for a cigarette.

“How do we know when we can come out? This is crazy! I can’t sit in here all night!” My mom said sternly.

“Mom!” I screamed as she got up, went in the living room and lit a cigarette. I envisioned her being sucked through the sliding glass door by a giant twister. I stayed in the tub a little longer, fretting about whether or not to follow her. The cats fretted about it too. Once I saw that my mom was not going to be sucked out the window by a twister, I left the confines of the bathroom. She was on the phone. Her boyfriend had called to check on us. The tornado had touched down one city over about 10 miles from us. We should be in the clear now.

Mom sucked on her cigarette while I continued to watch the weather coverage on the television.

This wasn’t the last time we weathered a storm. When my mom became ill and we were awaiting the official diagnosis from the doctors, another tornado warning came into our lives. This one lasted for over an hour. I was in the process of driving over to see my mom when the sirens started screaming. The computer voice interrupted my “favorite song” on the radio to tell me to take cover while I videoed with my phone churning clouds all around me on the way to my mom’s house. When I got there, my mom, her boyfriend, the two dogs, and my aunt from Texas were down stairs watching the weather coverage. The clouds churned and turned for over an hour producing tornados all around us. The sky looked angry and agitated. Once it was all over, I drove to my step-daughter’s school to check on her. She ran to me when she saw me. The poor thing had been in the frantic tornado position for over an hour. She looked weak and tired. I had the comfort of my mom throughout my tornado adventures; this poor girl had teachers and friends to comfort her, who apparently were just as scared. There’s nothing like a mother’s love to make you feel safe.

I love participating in charitable walks. I love the idea of masses of people coming together, donating their time and money for a cause that is important to them. I have walked for Huntington’s Disease in honor of my oldest sister’s in-laws who are suffering with the neurological disease that is unfortunately hereditary. I have walked for childhood cancer in honor of one of my student’s baby sister who was diagnosed with kidney cancer at the age of one after an x-ray was looking for pneumonia. I have walked for lung cancer in memory of my mom.

The way I stumbled across the Free to Breathe walk was a Google search one late evening in bed. My mom had been diagnosed a couple of weeks and the idea hit me; I need to form a team in her honor and get people together for lung cancer research and awareness. In two hours, Clan Diane was born. We had our own webpage through Free to Breathe that people could donate and sign up for the team. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom because I knew she would be flattered. I wanted her to see the good out of the ugly cancer that had started to shave time off her life. Due to her illness, we were given an opportunity to raise awareness of lung cancer by telling my mom’s story.

My mom’s boyfriend was able to network with his company co-workers and friends to bring in a lot of money. It was thrilling to log in and check the donation page every day. I became addicted and started to get a little rush, sort of like gambling, every time the number went up. I was a little occupied with my mom’s situation, which took all of my concentration, so I couldn’t really focus on raising money. I was too worried about when her next doctor’s appointment was, where it was, who we were seeing, what floor of the hospital it was on, what time did we need to get there, whether or not she could eat. My mind became numb to everything else except my mom and her needs. It was kind of like a mind vacation from all of my personal needs and it actually felt nice to only focus on my mom, her needs, and our relationship as mother and daughter. Plus, I really loved seeing her every day. It had been seven years since we did that.

The walk was scheduled for end of September so I told myself not to worry about the walk until August. I just couldn’t donate any more of my energy; I was starting to run low. August quickly approached after a long tiresome July in the hospital involving my mom’s emergency surgery on her heart.

During the first week in August, my mom and I sat on the hunter green and maroon floral couch in the sunny living room, mom a little lethargic, I a little wore out. By that time, I quit working a 9-5 job and worked solely on my mom. I was also trying to mentally prepare myself for student teaching which would be starting mid-August. I had no idea how I was going to take care of her, student teach, and advocate for the walk all at the same time; but I knew it would all work out somehow. While we sat there on the couch, heads on each others’ shoulders, my mom picked her head up, looked at me with slatted eyes.
“Are you still doing the walk?”
“Oh yes” I said.
“When is it?”
“Hmm” was all she said. I knew she was wondering the same thing, would she make it?

She didn’t make it. My walking in honor of my mom turned into walking in memory of my mom. Now I am the chairman of the Free to Breathe event in Kansas City planning the race/walk for 2012, still in memory of my mom. And yes, Clan Diane will be there with bells on.

screaming child

I know I was not the easiest child growing up. I was very dramatic and emotional giving my parents and other care takers a very hard time. I suppose that’s pretty normal as I turned out just fine. (Cough) Even though my step-daughter is not my blood child, she sure acts like one.

I was battling strep-throat, bronchitis, and a sinus infection all at the same time and not feeling too hot. It was that time of the evening where my step-daughter needed to take a bath and clean her room. She was only 7 and in the first grade, but she was accustomed to this routine. That’s when it all started.

The screaming began and I tried my hardest to ignore it, hoping it would stop like it usually did when she finally realized she wasn’t getting her way. But it didn’t. The screaming kept on for 45 minutes. I had her sit in various places around the house, hoping it would discourage her from screaming if she had to sit somewhere random until she stopped. It didn’t work.

After an hour, I started to get upset. Despite my years of experience working with young children and my education background, I started screaming right back at her. It was more like muffled scratchy sounds from lack of a voice, but I screamed as hard as I could telling her to stop screaming or I was going to lose it. Not my proudest moment.

As the poor child started screaming more, I called my mom in between painful sobs. Upon answering the phone my mom could hear her screaming grandchild and her sobbing daughter on the phone. She rushed right over. My mom gave her a bath and helped her clean her room, while I cried myself to sleep on the couch.

What would the world be like without mothers?