Monday, August 30, 2010

In some ways, we're all mothers

I stop at a grocery store in Yreka, California to buy something for breakfast. At the cash register, the young man ahead of me gasps in relief as he dumps an armload of cantaloupes onto the conveyor belt. The cashier quickly rings them up. $10.70. "Dang," he says. He only has a wrinkled ten-dollar bill. In the pregnant pause, I whip a dollar bill out of my wallet. "Here," I say. The checker takes it, gives me 30 cents change. The kid mumbles "thanks" and moves on. The checker also says, "Thanks." I feel like a mom, quickly seeing the problem and jumping in to help. Who's to know I'm not a mother, that my kids don't go to school with this kid? I walk out feeling happy.
Speaking of kids with problems, I just finished reading Debra Gwartney's Live Through This. It's the painful story of how her two oldest daughters became more and more out of control. Drugs, suicide attempts and nights when they didn't come home led to their running way and living on the streets for long periods of time while their mom went crazy trying to find them, hoping they weren't dead. I would hope that any of us, mothers or not, would do what we can to help any kid in trouble. As women, I think we're all mothers at large. When we can, we should help, whether it's a runaway who needs something to eat or a teenager who's short 70 cents at the grocery store.

Can you think of times you have acted as a mother for someone else's child?

Monday, August 23, 2010

We have our own saint

Did you know the Catholics have a patron saint for those who are childless? I stumbled upon it the other day. She's Saint Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. Not much is known about her, but it appears she did not conceive until late in life and Mary was her only child. She's not quite the saint for those of us who are not infertile, just childless by marriage or circumstance, but she's as close as we come. You can read about her at

Is there someone you admire who really exemplifies our situation and might be our own unofficial saint?

I took another run through my Childless by Marriage book, tweaking it here and there over the weekend. Now I think it's really ready to blast into the world. Stay tuned.
For those who noticed steam coming out of their computer in my recent exchange with my stepdaughter, we have reached a delicate peace agreement offline.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book revisions done

I finished revising my Childless by Marriage book tonight. Whew. I think of it as a "memoir plus". I tell my story but also include comments from a vast number of other people, including many childless women. There's a good deal of motherly :) advice thrown in, too. Now comes the hard work of getting it published. I will also offer excerpts to appropriate markets. All suggestions appreciated. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sometimes dogs are better than kids

I took my dog Annie to my husband's nursing home yesterday. It was her first trip there, and I feared she'd be too wild and crazy. But she was great. All those dog classes paid off. She didn't knock anybody down or potty on the floor. Instead, she sat quietly letting people pet her, and she made Fred so happy.

Everyone wanted to meet her, including the staff, other visitors and other residents. People with dementia who never talk to anybody or don't make sense if they do suddenly came alive with my dog, stroking her fur, telling her what a pretty girl she is. Miraculous. I started thinking about getting involved with therapy dogs. Check out the Therapy Dogs International web site for some great information on this.

As we drove home, Annie dozed beside me, her paw on my thigh. I was so proud and in love with that dog. It has to be something like parents feel about their kids when they do well.

I got to thinking that in some situations, like nursing home visits, a dog is actually more of an asset than a son or daughter. After all, babies cry, kids get bored and whine. What human two-year-old would sit still for two hours like Annie did? A dog doesn't get grossed out or offended by anything the residents might say or do. Grown children are likely to question every decision you have made.

Dogs live in the moment. Annie was happy just to explore her new surroundings and soak up the love. I'm very proud of my dog child.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do your stepchildren accept you?

Ah, stepchildren. I don't dare write what I want to write today for fear it will make my stepchildren dislike me more than they already do. It's not all their fault. Their father never reached out to them. Although I never missed sending a birthday or Christmas present, they seem to feel that we didn't care about them when they were younger, so why should they care about us now?

The thing with adult stepchildren is that they no longer have to visit the non-custodial parent. They don't have to share their children with you. They don't have to remember your birthday. If you didn't build a relationship when they were young, it's over. Recent events have made it clear they don't consider me family. So now I hug my dog, the only "child" I raised well.

Stepchildren are so tricky. They've got all that divorce baggage. How often do they love and respect both parents after the split? I suspect it's rare. They'll blame one or both for breaking up the family. Along comes the innocent new spouse, who is battling forces set in place long before she or he arrived. God bless those stepfamilies that blend together like flour and sugar in a cake batter. The rest of us separate like oil and vinegar. Heavy stirring may blend them for a while, but they inevitably separate again.

How is it with your stepchildren? Are you close? Do they include you in family events? Let's talk about it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When the dog-child runs away

I sat under the tree in the backyard at midnight crying. My dog (the one in the picture, now full-grown) was gone. She ran out through a gate left ajar by the new gardener. For a while I heard her rustling through the forest that surrounds our house, but now I heard nothing but the ocean in the distance. it was a dark, cloudy night with no stars or moon showing. I had done everything I could to raise this puppy to adulthood and keep her safe, but now I didn't know if I'd ever see her again. Oh, how I cursed that gardener in my mind. The gate had looked closed, but he didn't hook the latch, so Annie must have pushed it open.

I wandered the neighborhood calling for Annie, swinging my flashlight around. The growth was too thick in most areas for a human to walk. When I didn't find her nearby, I drove my car slowly down the streets where we take our walks. Everything looked different in the dark, the trees gray and spooky, the houses dark and silent.

I was exhausted, but I couldn't go to bed without finding Annie. I feared she would be attacked by a coyote or fall into a ravine. If she got out onto the highway, she could be hit by a car as easily as the raccoons, squirrels and possums I see on the road every day.

No sign of Annie. No one to call at that hour. I was completely alone--except for God. I sent up a prayer and drove home. Once upon a time, when I had both Annie and her brother Chico, I used to be able to get them home by waiting in the open car. They'd think I was leaving and jump in. I parked my Honda Element in the garage and settled onto the tailgate with my flashlight, a box of Milkbones and the garage door remote control. In a few minutes, I heard twigs crackling. And then, praise God, Annie ran and jumped up beside me. Before she could think, I closed the garage door.

I gave her a big hug. "You're grounded," I informed her. My dog is my child. My only child. Thank God she's back.