Monday, December 03, 2007

Mixing up the world

Bevin has a way of making me realize that the world as I live it is not self evident. Some moments from my weekend with Bev:
        •        When she greets me at the weekend her first word is pretty much always “poppie” (as in soda pop), not Mommy (though that does generally sneak in). Puts you in your place.
        •        Her only goal oriented behavior of the weekend: go to the neighborhood store and buy poppie (she pretty much always pull diet Dr. Pepper from the cooler, how does she know?)
        •        Her main point of conversation for the weekend (when it’s not “poppie”): Sarah. In other words, when do I get to dump you and hang out with my sister.
        •        At 10:30 on Saturday night, she decides that her next step is not to climb into bed. Doesn’t seem to have a plan B. I WAS ready for bed, and I won (another story).
        •        Sunday morning she more than ready to get up at 5:30. (And who was it I thought won?)
        •        It snowed this weekend and poured buckets. As we walked outside, she didn’t notice. (I have my feet propped up on the table in the basement tonight because the floor is definitely noticing the rain.)

And yet, the more time I spend with Bevin, the more I wonder whether I should defer to her sense of the world.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Who knew this exists? I learned from my 5-year-old grandson. You buy a webkins. You get a “code.” And voila, you have gain entrance to a secret, magical world.

My grandson, Jacob, is particularly keen 0n “going for” ALL of the beach accouterments. You can get a “job” to earn dollars for purchasing your dreams. Or you can go the arcade and gamble for webkins dollars (it takes, for example, $750 webkins to get a set of surfboards for the beach theme room Jacob has named “Ocean Waves"). Jacob tried to teach me the Dicekins game (but I just didn’t get it). His parents secretly gamble for dollars for their son. And Jacob is keen on getting yet another webkins (which comes with some $2000 webkins for wheeling and dealing in the webkins world). For that, he mopped the kitchen floor for a dollar. And has plans to rake leaves and wash window. All in search of yet another webkins (which costs $15 in the real world; Jacob has now saved $7 towards his next webkins).

What do I think about this?
• Jacob mopping the floor. Pretty thorough and impressive for a five year old. Clean floor. Cheerful worker. Goal oriented. Good? Bad?
• Jacob using the computer mouse. Pretty impressive small motor skills. Menus. Game moves. Better than me--though how easy is that?
• Jacob’s goal oriented behavior. With webkins world, he learns that things cost, you can’t get around that, you have to earn the money. If you make bad choices, you deal. (He is selling back earlier purchases, shifting around what he did a few weeks back and now seems to regret.)
• Parents. I saw both dad and mom playing the webkins games to earn Jacob dollars. Now those games aren’t easy. I certainly couldn’t have earned him any money even though he tutored me in dicekins (or whatever). But what does this teach? Under the table? Family solidarity?
• Web world? Real world? Where does this lead? Not entirely sure. I brought computers to my kids. I live from software. My husband spends his life at the computer. Not entirely sure. . . . . .

Smart, funny, amusing kid. Where does webkins lead? Not entirely sure. This kid doesn’t watch TV. He does watch videos. (And he could perform all the songs from “High School Musical.) He’s also playing chess online. He’s also playing outside an writing his own book of "scriptures." I’m working in this world of software and online communities. Where does it lead?

Not entirely comfortable. Would oh so happily get back to books, walks, writing (though mostly on a computer). Still there is this romance of ink and paper, and I haven't entirely abandoned that mode.

I was born too early and too late. Such a life lived in between. It’s hard to know what to make of this all.

Getting home

Not so easy. A lesson I have learned. Do not fly in or out of the airport in Newport News Virginia. Flying in for Thanksgiving, my flight from Atlanta was cancelled--with an offer to fly in 8 hours later. Flying out, my flight is now 2 hours late, and I get to spend the night in Atlanta (my cost not the airlines because this is an act of God, weather, not Delta). And fly home tomorrow.

A convoluted trip. I voted thumbs down on the eight-hour wait in Atlanta and flew into Richmond, rented a car there, picked my suitcase up in Newport News (60 miles apart--both some 30-40 miles from my son’s home on the outskirts of Williamsburg, near Jamestown). And so tonight I drove to Richmond, dropped off my rental, my son drove to Richmone, picked me up and drove me to Newport News. I’ll wait here 4 hours and spend a very short night at a (too expensive) hotel in Atlanta.

All in all, I won’t be that much in the hole. I had planned to arrive home between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., go to bed and sleep. Get up at 10:00 or 11:00 and prepare for the descent into work on Tuesday. The plan now. Sleep in a somewhat expensive bed in Atlanta, fly out in the morning. Get home by 1:00 or so. Still part of the day to recover. Not that much difference all around. Though a whole lot of hassle and some money. I did check on a flight tomorrow--$333 to make the change. A good night in an Atlanta bed at that rate (and more of my day in Seattle) seemed like a better plan.

Isn’t modern life just too complicated? I had thought of driving to Williamsburg with Bevin--but decided that would take two weeks, not three. That may have been easier. Still a possibility for my sabbatical--I have never driven cross country. And Bev is such a good traveling companion.

(By the way new granddaughter is so cute, and son, daughter-in-law, and grandson so good to be with. Webkins. That’s what I learned about from grandson Jacob. A whole new world. But for another day--assuming I do eventually get back to Seattle.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thinking about Romney and abortion

I’m a bit of a political junky, so I have been following presidential primary politics for a while now. With my Mormon background, it’s hard not to pay just a little extra attention to what the talking heads have to say about Romney. Recently on hearing yet again about Romney’s flip flop on abortion, I started thinking about the Mormon position on abortion (or at least the position as I knew it back in the eighties). Mormons are definitely anti-abortion, but not in quite the way most conservative Christians are. I think the wobbly nature of Romney’s discourse on abortion may well have roots in the Mormon position.

The Mormon position allows for abortion in the case of rape and grave danger to the health of the mother. For conservative Christians abortion is murder of an innocent child. The child dies without baptism, without faith. Thus the abortion means the loss of both the mother, who murders, and the child, who dies without the benefits of Christ’s saving grace.

I suspect the ambiguity of the Mormon position--with its allowance for justified abortion--begins in the Mormon notion of the soul. For Mormons, the soul is eternal. It has a life before its mortal existence, comes to earth to take a body, and lives on after mortal death. For traditional Christians, the soul begins with life. So the child aborted in the womb has only that brief existence. For Mormons an eternal soul enters an earthly body. When is not exactly clear. But no tragedy for the aborted child in the Mormon version of the story. If the child’s soul has not yet entered the body, then that soul will be allotted another body. If the child’s soul has entered, then that child has obtained its necessary body and will be exalted in the highest Mormon heaven with all of the innocent children who die before eight, the age of accountability and baptism.

In other words, the abortion is no tragedy for the child in the Mormon version of the story. It forecloses little in the eternal view of what matters. In the traditional Christian version, it is a tragedy, in many versions foreclosing salvation for that child. In the Mormon story, it is the woman who suffers and is judged, not the child. She is the one who must justify her decision before her God. Abortion is a terrible event, but the official position of her church signals a measured and merciful view to the horror and pain women may face.

So on this matter I am inclined to allow Romney’s wavering views on the extent of a woman’s right to choose--he is finding his way along a spectrum that is part of the larger conversation about abortion among Mormons. The dominant note in that conversation is definitely pro-life--most Mormons in the twenty-first century are proud conservatives. But the Mormon God through his church’s leaders has allowed for a terrible choice.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Idaho Halloween

Yes, I realize that Halloween was last week. But I’ve been thinking about my childhood experience of Halloween all week (as each day brings more rejected candy dumped out in the kitchen area at work).

I grew up in a small village (350 people on the sign at the outskirts of town) in southeastern Idaho, where my dad was the “sheriff.” Which says nothing about his job description. He was in fact the town employee. He plowed the snow, graded the roads, kept the city ball diamond groomed, the grade school playgrounds and parks watered and mowed, the weeds along the road down. He sent the water from the city well to be tested. He was the town dog catcher (known to take a gun and a dog to the town dump).

I loved Halloween--one of the most festive days of the year in our little town. Each year a Halloween “carnival” was held at the grade school. Costume parade, cakewalk, bobbing for apples, haunted house. Everyone gathered after kids had trick or treated around town. My misbehaving peaked at writing on windows with soap (never with wax which was pure evil to my dad).

My dad hated the night--the one night of the year he was most the sheriff, trying to bring a little peace, a little law and order.

Naughty boys (always boys as far as I ever knew) had a yearly ritual. Tip over outdoor toilets or put them on the roofs of sheds and barns in town. (No one really used outdoor toilets by the time I was a kid but many of them still existed on local property.) A canal flowed around the town. Bridges over the canal were made of wood. The second ritual of bad boys was to pile bales of straw on the bridges and set them on fire.

So my dad spent Halloween chasing kids away from the toilets and the bridges, pulling the toilets off sheds, covering up the nasty holes, putting out the fires on the bridges and scattering the straw along the graveled road.

My memories of Halloween then: the excitement of the carnival (after the excitement of the candy and being just a little bit bad) and one very pissed off Dad!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why no posts?

I ask myself from time to time why I managed to post as much as I did while I was off with Bev. Now an easy answer would be that I had more time. But that wouldn’t be true. I don’t really have all that much easy, computer time when I’m with Bev. She certainly doesn’t get computers. And if I’m just sitting there and it is daytime, then from her view I’m being really annoying. We aren’t walking, we aren’t driving, we aren’t drinking soda, we aren’t shopping. These are activities she gets. Sitting with a small thing on my lap, ignoring her. This she doesn’t get.

So why did I write then, and I don’t write now. I used to write in the evenings, mostly when Bev was sleeping. So now I come home from work, but I don’t write.

Some random thoughts on this mystery. During that time my brain was able to slow down enough to daydream, muse, contemplate, think. It wasn’t assaulted with external assaults and requirements. At work, I spend my time “thinking”--but it’s quick, short, tactical, high pressure. When I come home at night my brain is swimming. Nothing settles out that is working spending more time on. In fact I spend my time holding these quick, intense thoughts at bay.

So I guess my evenings are mostly spent trying to send my brain into a loop that doesn’t assault me, hassle me. That’s the mode my work brings upon me. So what do I do? Read e-mail. Read the blogs of kids and friends. Watch TV. (Watching movies usually seems like too much of a commitment.) Download audiobooks. Wash dishes. Listen to audiobooks as I fall to sleep. Keep my brain, my thoughts at bay.

This is not good. I’ve always thought of my brain as my friend, not my hassler (torment is way too dramatic here). So this means that I need to find a way out of the return of my current life patterns. Life tires my brain. This not helping.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bev and the Fabulous Four

Last night I had a first-time event: a sleepover with Bevin plus ALL of my daughter Sarah’s kids: Anna (8), Clara (6), Sam (4), Isaac (4). I had done halvsies--Bevin plus 1 girl and 1 boy.

It was a great night and pretty much a success. But I learned a few things. About my grandkids. And about Bev.

The grandkids. They are pretty self-contained, interesting little people. I have a few routines that always succeed: legos, On Demand (Tom and Jerry are the biggest hit, with Angelina Balerina a close second), pancake breakfast, chocolate chip cooky dough, Diggedy Dog, Green Lake. Diggedy Dog is half a block up the street: menu headlines hot dogs (actually the little diggedy and the big diggedy), chips, drinks, little tables, lots of toys, photos of dogs on the wallks, pictures of dogs on the wall drawn by children (including Clara and Anna). Green Lake is a wonderous park a block from my house (three miles around the edge of a lake, with docks, playgrounds, cool little eddies along the way); today Sam and I watched an elderly Asian man catch a little fish. Let the kids watch TV long enough and they will fall asleep. Everything else is easy.

Bevin. She was actually most challenged by the weekends. She loves hanging out with the little kids. But she is a person unmoored by folks, events that show up in the wrong place. She spends a night every weekend with these kids (Sunday and primary in the middle). But this weekend she discovered the kids in the middle of her weekend with Mommy. And she wasn’t always quite sure how to manage.

First. Watching TV in the evenings. Mom and Bev settle down on the couch, Bev’s head on Mom’s lap and a blanket over her head. On Saturday: the couch was full, the blankets were taken, and no place for both Mom and Bev to veg (and they were cackling over Tom and Jerry, who had heard of such a thing).

Next. Sleeping. She sleeps in her bed in the basement, wakes up in the middle of the night, goes to the bathroom, and climbs into bed for a cuddle with Mommy. Well on Saturday: she couldn’t go to bed in the basement. She was suppoed to go to bed in Mommy’s bed.

(I finally got her to sleep by giving her a soda, turning on Barney on the couch upstairs once the others had gone to bed. She sipped her soda, watched Barney. And very soon, she was ready to get into bed with Mommy.)

The morning: (By the way, we had a fine, long, cuddly, night. She didn’t get up in the middle of the night, and she got up late. . . .) it was fine at first, we got up, she bathed, I fixed her breakfast, and she asked me to turn on Barney, her favorite. But before you knew it, the couch was full with girls watching Barney. Bevin always sits on the couch, at the right as she watches Barney. Girls were sitting there. And that was just TOO much.

The secret to finding the calm, happy Bevin. She and I went on a short walk, to the little market up the street, she chose herself from the coller a Dr. Pepper. We walked home. She took up her familiar hanging out on the front parking strip. And all was pretty much well.

There were other “challenges” to Bev’s day. But you get the drift. The world should be predictable. Many of us probably hope for that as Bevin does. But she is unforgiving. She does expect her world to resolve itself into familiar happy routines. . . . . . My job. Her bliss.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weekend mornings

Bevin doesn’t seem to understand that people sleep in on weekends. She tends to get up early in the morning (3:00 to 5:00), come upstairs and go to the bathroom, then climb in bed with me. All to the good. We go back to sleep. . . . for a while. . . . .

I can tell when her night is over. She sits up in bed. I have my back to her. She stares at me, and stares at me. I ignore her. I pull the blanket back around me, maybe over my head. She watches for a while. I can feel the staring eyes. And then she moves to the next step. Pulls the blanket back, more staring. And then she finally makes her move.

She reaches over and pinches my nose.

At that point, I know it’s all over. If she decides to get up on her own--that’s not good. She may start cleaning surfaces, trashing things. So I take notice. I reward the nose pinching (I do know that). I look at her.

She’s still sitting there cross legged. Watching me. And she smiles. She knows she has me. I smile too. With luck, it’s 8:00 (rare), once it was 9:00 (miraculous). Usually it’s more like 7:00. Alas, at times it’s 6:00.

But the day begins, with a smiling companion. Which goes a long way. . . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gangster endings. . . . . . . . . . . . .

So I don’t think I’ve ever watched a complete episode of the Sopranos. Couldn’t tell you whether I’ve ever watched any of the Sopranos. But of course it’s been in the background noise of popular culture for years. So right now I’m watching the final episode of the Sopranos. Why? Who could resist. The coverage. And I saw a replay of the ending. You see, that’s something I have spent time thinking about over the past two decades: endings. From what I could tell watching news accounts of this final episode, this was a protypical version of the protypical modern/postmodern ending. Don’t give them an ending. Give them play, ambiguity. Let the reader write the ending. I’m still waiting to watch this ending, but I suspect that from what I’ve heard about this ending, the “appropriate” response is laughter. This is in your face, a parody, an exaggeration, the kind of stereotype that makes you take notice. I’m told, from the news tonight, that many readers are outraged, others feel that they know the secret,, others like me are laughing. Can’t say I’m an expert on the Soprano--remember I’ve never watched them--so who knows whether I’m scratching the surface or outing my ignorance.

So why does this even intrigue me? Make me pause? Okay, I didn’t finish a doctoral dissertation on endings. But more importantly, I have spent the background reading of my past few months on a very big book. I can’t take it on planes. I can’t take it in my purse. It’s often difficult to cart into situations where I might read. So in the short run, I listen to audiobooks and read (page by page) shorter, more compact books. The big, heavy book:(916 hardback pages): Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. A book by an Anglo-Indian writer. A book about a ganster and a cop.

I’m still watching this final episode of Sopranos. But I can see that this series and my book have themes, narratives in common. Family, religion, ethnicity, women, children, the banality of crime. . . . . . . I don’t know how my Indian book ends. Why do I care? And why do I think this has anything to do with the Sopranos.

At my work (at a software company where I do documentation), I work with our documentation team in India. I read (and listen via audio books which are wonderful because of the accents) quite a bit of Anglo-Indian literature. I spent two very painful weeks with our new “manager” in India--aspiring to success in an American company, he’s against Ghandi (our American hero), he celebrates Valentines day, he’ll eat anything (no vegetarian he), and he drove me cracy. In other words, I’m invested in endings, in reading, in India.

So the Sopranos is not yet over, playing in the background. Does any of this mean anything. Can’t say. Stay tuned. Sopranos? Indian policeman and ganster. Stay tuned. . . .

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Elizabeth Rose Oman

I’m a proud grandma (again, how lovely). This baby is a miracle.

You can learn about what Mom went through for Elizabeth Rose at her blogs:
Mormon Mommy Wars
Living with PKD

On her birth:
Her mom at Mormon Mommy Wars

Her dad at Times and Seasons

Heather's sister at Mommy Mormon Wars

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I tuned into about five minutes of the Utah Jazz game tonight--and this (sad experience) sent me into a meditation on basketball, its place in my life.

Some of my earliest memories are basketball games. My next oldest sibling, a brother, is ten years older than me. That means that when he was a freshman in high school (14), I was four. When he was a senior in high school (18), I was eight. My brother was a basketball star. And some of my earliest memories are the games he played. The high school he (and I) attended had around 300 students (9th through 12th grades). The baseball games were played in the city “armory”-- bit bigger than the tiny gym in the high school. I was happiest when my dad found a seat near the little stage where the piano was located. Then I could use the space to mimic what I really cared about at the basketball game--the cheer leaders. I grew up in a very sexist world. Girls didn’t play basketball (in fact when I grew up we played girl’s rules, a whole other post). Girls could: (a) play in the pep band or (b) be a cheerleader. At 4 to 8, I imagined myself as a cheerleader. By the time I arrived at high school, I had learned that I would play in the pep band.

Perhaps this experience--the gap between the glamour of my little girlhood and the reality of my teenage world--traces the structure of me and basketball. The continuing gap between wish, desire, fantasy--and reality.

Fast forward. I spent much of my early adult life living in Salt Lake City. Cheering for the Jazz. We came close but were thwarted, most memorably in my engaged Jazz days, by Phoenix and Seattle, as I recall (or was it only Phoenix in those days).

Then I moved to Sacrmanto. My husband’s job yielded us free tickets to the King’s games. Mostly pathetic, but then rising hope. And somehow I remember those fantasies, those desires were thwarted--by the Seattle Sonics.

And so now I live in Seattle. The Sonics are pathetic. And threatening to leave the city for Oklahoma City (because the Seattle tax payers won’t cough up money for a third new arena (we already have one for football, somewhat successful, and one for baseball, not so much so).

So tonight I find myself routing again for the Utah Jazz. And yet another round of disappointment (assuming of course that the Jazz didn’t manage to overcome their twenty point deficity--now wouldn’t that be a wonderful story).

So should I give up on basketball? Can’t quite get there. My father somehow polished sports into my genes (though it never did occur to him that a daughter might play as well as cheer). But again, another story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Companions and solitude

So how long has it been since I wrote? Why? Companions. Friends. Visitors. My friend visited for two weeks. My husband was here for two weeks. (My husband flew off to Scotland this morning). This time was on some levels difficult for me. Defer to others. Lose yourself. Was it these people? My patterns with these people? Me? I’m certainly left with these questions. And no immediate, easy answers.

It is clear that the basic patterns of my life these days assume solitary time. My work (yes I’m back to work) overwhelms me with people, talk, conciliation, compromise, listening (NOT one of my top skills). My personal life must leave me solitary time. This I know. So to what extent do I need people. I certainly want the answer to be that I thrive on the people I love--my kids, my grandkids, my husband. I do love times with them, look forward to time with them. . . . . . .

But I am just so relieved this evening. The first really alone since mid-February (except for three days in the middle). What does this mean? (Another question to contemplate should I have solitary time for such.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bev's true true colors

It seems that Bev is mostly succeeding. She is a happy soul. And she is finding a happy path at her day program and her new home. The girls at her home see her as the little sister (she is small, cute, clueless). The girls are helping her, protecting her, cuddling her, forgiving her. She spent the first few days cycling through her routines of misbehavior, but also of charm. I think she will be okay in both places. Stay tuned!!!

An alternate good to God's good

I just revisited Brideshead Revisited (the BBC version with Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier--original novel by Evelyn Waugh, adaptation by John Mortimer). To me this mini-series (I still need to read the Evelyn Waugh book) is a devastating meditation on religion--and a gem of television drama. The first time I saw this series my much younger self was overwhelmed by the last episode.. The Laurence Olivier character accepts last rights (his last act in lifeis to cross himself) though he has been estranged from the church, living in sin for some twenty-five years. As a result of this episode, the Julia character (daughter) pushes away the Jeremy Irons character--because of the gulf opened up by religion and belief versus skepticism. Finishing the series tonight, I was no less moved by this episode. Found myself in tears.

Julia (Diana Quick) rejects Charles (Jeremy Irons) because she is terrified that marrying him will mean embracing an alternate good to God’s good. The good that Catholicism signifies in this series haunts me. The mother is sweet, loving, lethal. All of the children are damaged by her love and by the church.

I’m not sure the alternate good must exclude God (though I have little talent for belief myself). But a god that wins out must be on the side of life. A line from the last episode, from the nurse about the Lord Laurence Olivier character. Says the nurse. He resists dying. Not because of a zest for life but because of a fear of death. I do not want this to be an appropriate epitaph for my end, and for my life.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

True colors

So Bevin pulled out the stops her first night. She spent a good deal of the time being oh so charming. Smiling, eating well, hanging out with the girls for the evening, playing with the toys. The other girls want to mother Bevin, treat her like a little sister. So they were being excited, welcoming, etc.

Everything seems to have gone well until after Bevin’s shower, Lizelle gave Bevin her shower first, so that she had time after she was finished when Lizelle was busy. The time just after Bevin has had a bath or shower and changed her clothes is the point at which she seems particularly vulnerable to one of her puffing/anxiety attacks. And she put on quite a show, apparently. While Lizelle was in the bathroom downstairs, Bevin went into the bathroom upstairs and cleared off all of the surfaces, in her most violent manner, breaking some knick knacks in the process. Then she ran into the bedroom of one of the girls upstairs and cleared off all of her surfaces (thought I don’t think she broke anything there). She also tried to raid the refrigerator. When Bevin’s new roommate, Jill (a very sweet autistic woman) started to scold Bevin, tell her not to do that, Bevin actually managed a full sentence: “J (for Jill) shut up!”

At that point Lizelle arrived, finally got Bevin to settle down by sitting with her stroking her hair, cuddling with her--such good instincts. And then the good Bevin kicked back in, started smiling and babbling about Mommie. . . . . . .

I went over there mid-day today to talk to Lizelle. Luckily she was fine about what happened, felt like she had an idea of what to expect, how to handle this. Clearly, it’s probably best to leave Bevin’s shower until last. That way she’s more likely to stay in hang-out mode with the other girls. Lizelle will set it up so she can spend time with Bevin and help her through her vulnerable period after her shower. We talked about other possibilities (including, I’m getting Bevin her own TV for private Barney viewing when nothing else will do).

I was glad to hear that Bevin’s fit was outdone by Jill at her arrival, and even one of the girls, Ginna. Jill had managed to break windows and pieces of furniture. Now she’s mostly a lamb. So despite Lizelle’s quiet way (and she’s actually smaller than Bevin), I’m thinking that she may well be equal to Bevin.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bev moves in

I took her clothes over earlier in the day. I took her over at about 4:00 and stayed until 7:00 or so. Bevin liked the place, liked the girls. Was happy, pleasant, pretty charming. Ate a good meal. I joined in. Took lots of pictures. Hung out with the girls. Bevin is taller than the care giver. Which means that Bevin can’t be consistently aggressive and stay there.

I’m hoping the good atmosphere, the fact that she will be busy, and that things will be happening between the girls. (All of the girls are much higher functioning than Bev, inclined to be protective and friendly.) These facts on the ground will, I hope, keep her well behaved and engaged. She is well behaved at Sarah’s, interestingly enough has more problem with me. I think because of the one to one time.The fact that I’m quiet, not that interesting. And that Bevin must make some decisions on her own to keep her life interesting around me (something she’s not that good at) rather than going with the flow. . . . . . . .

I hope so. This is a very sweet, loving place. I’ve done my part. I long to have Bevin do well here. It’s up to her. Which is the scary part. I’ve done what I can to charm, prove she has a supportive and loving family, buried folks in pictures of cute families and stories of Bevin as charmer. . . . . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Castle

Okay. It’s not that bad!! But over the past couple of months I’ve often wondered whether I am on the outskirts. The logic of the world I’ve confronted trying to find a place for Bevin has often left me mystified.

The immediate incident that has sent me along this path of contemplation:

I found a good day program for Bevin. Her soon-to-be roommate at the group home she will move to on Monday goes to the same program. The roommate travels to the day program with a transportation service called Hope Link--three days a week. Bevin will be going to the same program five days a week. So it seems that it should be a no brainer to have Bevin travel on the same bus, the Hope-Link bus, too. But. . . . . . The rules have changed. The center in Bellevue (this center is in Issaquah) is a few miles closer. Hopelink will only take her there. (Though they will compensate me for the cost to have her use a different service, that won’t be available for 4 to six weeks). No matter that the trip to Issaquah takes 10 minutes along i_90 and the trip to Bellevue takes 30-45 minutes along the 405/520 corridor (hell holes of the Seattle area commute).

(Though there is footnote to this narrative. The director at the Issaquah program talked Hope Link into taking Bevin to the program until June--by which time I should have the other program, subsidized by Hope Link, available.)

I’m sure there is a logic that I am missing.

Certainly getting to the point I could actually call real people who run group homes and day programs was rather indirect. Like going through a series of entries, with a warrant for entry (paperwork that made it through the system):
        1.        I couldn’t apply for services until Bevin was living in Washington. That meant that I filled out the paperwork and waited until I was told that once I apply she would qualify. (This took a couple of weeks.)
        2.        Once I had Bevin in Washington, I called. Then they put her paperwork into the system. After 10-14 days, I was assigned a DDD (Developmental Disabilities Division) caseworker.
        3.        In the meantime, I went to the Social Security Administration, assured them that Bevin had moved to Washington, had me assigned as her SSI Payee--and was told to wait for the paperwork to go through (and her SSI to begin coming to me)
        4.        I called the DDD caseworker; we played phone tag and then she finally got back to me and made an appointment--in approximately a week to ten days.
        5.        This was the “intake” caseworker. She did the intake discussion (the short one, less than an hour). Then she warranted that I could go on to the next step.
        6.        We waited until another week until Bev’s SSI information went into the system (another week). Then she assigned me the caseworker of the next level.
        7.        So I called him, played phone tag, finally made an appointment--for 7-10 days hence.
        8.        He came to our house and did the “long” interview--this one took two hours. Then he had enough information to present Bevin’s case to the group family home crowd.
        9.        So a week later he gave me the names of family homes. He also gave me the names of some day programs.
        10.        So then I made the calls and made the appointments to meet the family home directors. (Another week.)
        11.        Then I went to visit the homes, identified two that might be possibilities.
        12.        Then we had to have all the paperwork sent to them (took another few days).
        13.        And finally I identified a home--waited the best part of another week until I was accepted.
        14.        And so at this point we begin talking about the day program, the group home.
        15.        But my caseworker knows nothing about how things are paid for, what my next steps are.
        16.        You guessed it!! I have yet another case worker. The family home caseworker. He is the one who seems to hold the secret information on how things are paid for, what I need to do next.
        17.        So now I’m playing phone tag with him. I’m hoping this doesn’t take too long.
        18.        At least Bevin is supposed to move into her home next Monday. . . . . .

And I’m exhausted. . . . . . .

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Found a home

Bevin is going to move into the home that is closest to Sarah’s house. It will be easy for her to include Bev in more spur of the moment kinds of things with her kids. It will be easy access for me off the easiest freeway here. So the location couldn’t be better.

The girls there are all higher functioning than Bev--more language, some of them even read and have jobs. . . . . I’m hoping this will be good for Bevin. It will mean more is going on. I just hope she behaves and fits in. It would be sad if she couldn’t.

Today we’ve been shopping for a bed. I will probably have her move in by the end of next week. That way, I’ll be able to get a sense before I have to go back to work about whether the placement will work. I’ll still have a little time if somehow it doesn’t.

Wish Bevin luck!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I spent today visiting two homes where Bevin might live. I liked both women who manage the two homes. One exists. And the other is a new home; it doesn’t exist yet. I vote for the one that exists. But I realize that I am “auditioning” Bev, and I’m not sure she’ll get the part. Maybe in either home. My first choice. A home that exists. The girls are all much more accomplished than my Bev. They talked to me. One even asked me about my job. Bev would be the least accomplished of the group. She liked the place. She met her potential roommate--an autistic girl who is apparently more accomplished than she presents. Bevin liked her. She remembered her name. And when we left, she said, “bye ja (read Jill).” Not sure they’ll choose Bev.

The other home is a theory. A nice theory. I liked the woman. She has other homes and she is smart, in touch. I would assent to Bev living there. But I didn’t see the home as a living entity. It's assemgling. I liked the vibes in my number 1. I could see that organism.

Stay tuned. Maybe neither will want Bev. . . . . Who could imagine that?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mommy and Me

Bevin can be weirdly wonderous. This is her masterpiece: she pronounces the consonant sound “M” for two words only, Mommy and Me. For all other words, “M” becomes “W.” Hence Milk is “Wa.” Water is “Wa.” Matt is “Wa.” Mike is “Wa.” Mommy is Mommy. Me is Me.

Even Freud would smile.

I’ve spent six weeks now with Bevin--pretty much full time (with the general exception of one overnight with her sister and family per week). It struck me recently, that this devoted one on one has not happened for the two of us since Bevin was a very small, nursing baby. Even then, I left her with her father, I left her with babysitters, and I left her with her siblings. By the time she was three, I was leaving her at a day care center--lots of kids and people. So despite the way Bevin’s language (admittedly limited and perhaps as a result more eloquent) focuses on the isolated dyad of Mommy and Me, our life hasn’t. Which makes the past six weeks all the more instructive.

I came to this experiment with hope. I would detox my daughter--love her, feed her, walk, ride, sleep. And we would arrive at the sweet, wild child I have in my heart, I remember from her babyhood, toddlerhood. . . . . Mommy and Me. The cure.

Ah those twisted family plots. This is partly true. Bevin is happy. She loves me, she cuddles, we have great times together. We love to drive, we love to walk. I’ve discovered that Bev is great in coffee shops and bars--any place where her focus can be on a good drink (for her a soda, or in Bevin speak, “pa” or “poppie.”) But I am now also confronting those epic narratives about mothers and daughters, Mommy and Me. One on one can be more challenging than one in a group. Especially for Bevin, who doesn’t have a great deal of commitment, goal oriented behavior. It’s easier for her to encounter me, love me, fight with me, disobey me, than it is to work herself up to such battle in a group.

Sometimes Bevin seems out of time, out of place. A world to her own. And then I push a bit deeper and I find a truth about the most common place things we do. Mommy and Me. Continuity. Disconnect. Love. Fight. Me. Other. It’s how we come to who we are. Bevin is so very human. And that means, oh so complicated, frustrating, frightening, intriguing, wonderful.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Bevin whisperer

I want to be one. This is now my goal.

Bevin can be scary when she cycles out of control. Not often. But often enough to require attention. She dips down into a well of anxiety and discontent. She runs about the house. She flushes toilets--again, again, again, again, again, again. . . . .. She begins puffing, spitting (not sure how to describe this very weird behavior). If you impede her progress in running about the house (and flushing toilets, and puffing) , she is way pissed. Throws things, big things (a toy microwave, a lamp, a vase, anything at hand . . . .). And she is aggressive. That means she hits--me, if she can.

What to do? I love Bevin. I find her charming. Even at her worst I’m scared, but intrigued, interested, engaged. I’ve always thought of Bevin as my wild child. So I forgive her beyond what I can sustain for others.

The basic task: to control her behavior to the point that others will find her as charming, intriguing, lovely, as I do. And treat her the way they would any charming, intriguing, lovely, young woman. I find myself returning to two memories that are weirdly parallel, in synch. Which makes me pay attention.

Number ONE: Last fall, my husband and I visited my son and his wife. And I learned about how to be a dog whisperer. My son’s wife (SW) had rescued an enthusiastic, badly behaved black lab from certain death. Maggie. Smelly, loving, on the edge. SW was clear on these basic principles. Here’s what I remember:
--You (person, homo sapien) must establish yourself as alpha dog.
--Establish boundaries. (For Maggie, she can go into the kitchen, the family room, the hall, the stairs, but not the living room, the computer room, or the kid’s room.)
--Reward good behavior. (For a dog, lots of pets, loves, food.)
--Make bad behavior less than pleasant. (For a dog, this means a choke chain.)
--Ignore neutral behavior.
--Do everything you can to help your dog succeed. This means lots of exercise. Letting your dog outside when she’s about to lose it.
And Maggie was making progress. She lapsed from time to time. But for the most part she didn’t come into the living room and she didn’t come into our bedroom.

Number TWO: Bevin’s first school was CBTU in Salt Lake City--the Children’s Behavior Therapy Unit(at Douglas school on 13th East). Bevin began attending at the age of three. Most of the children were autistic (Bevin never had enough “points” to be autistic, or autistic like, but she this school definitely made a difference in Bevin’s life.) This school rescued badly behaved, developmentally disabled children. Taught them to behave in a way that brought them closer to what the world expects. You attend. You don’t bite, hit, fight. . . . . You comply. This is what Bevin learned, to attend, to fit in. And this was important. The rules of the therapy unit:
--You win. Don’t engage a struggle if you aren’t willing to take it to the end.
--Establish boundaries. The developmentally disabled child (DDC) will behave as specified. Look at me, listen, smile. . . . .
--Reward good behavior.
--Make bad behavior less than pleasant--boring, a dead end. (For A DDC that means isolation, repetition, boredom. For Bevin, that sometimes meant a blindfold, not looking at her, repetition, a timeout corner, a hold to quiet her in publoic.)
--Do everything you can to help your DDC succeed. For Bevin, this means, lots of driving, walks, trips into public places where there are lots of interesting people. . . . . .

Since bringing Bevin to Seattle, I’ve been rummaging in my grab bag for tools that will help the two of us succeed. And I’ve gone back to this twinning structure--the dog whisperer, behavior therapy. Bad behavior is annoying. How to extinguish the behavior? With a a very basic creature--she just won’t listen to reason. She has no reason.

And so? I want to be a Bevin whisperer. She needs to succeed, to be lovable. And that success depends on me--the alpha dog. And she’ll be happier if we succeed. Certainly I’ll be happier if we succeed.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I recently listened to Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” (I was driving up the Oregon/Washington coast, a beautiful landscape, which was somehow appropriate.) At times this book is overwrought. But overall, the book dipped down into my own history with food.

I grew up on a farm. My parents had an amazing garden. We lived off the garden in the summer, canned the abundance, and lived off that in the winter. I remember killing chickens. I remember knowing the calf you ate during the winter. My grandfather had chickens. I know about feisty, nasty Banty roosters. And I have gathered eggs.

And I have a personal rivulet into hippy dreams of utopia, imagining we might live in a happy group and grow foods. In the seventies, I gardened, made food from scratch (bread from wheat, and ricotta and cottage cheese from milk). In other words, I have a pretty good sense of where “real” food comes from. I had an aesthetic that said natural is good and so on. I have gardened, frozen foods, canned foods. . . . . .

Fast forward. In the middle years I’ve bought food, tried to keep my life engaged with something real, not always successfully. I can never resist potato chips. I go through this pass down memory lane to establish why I would respond to Pollan’s book.

A guilty pleasure and a continuing link to my more basic connection with food: i buy cookbooks. I love the idea of great food. Though I don’t always get around to cooking that great food. I understand the difference between food as at least a craft, often an art. And I have a sense of food that diminishes. of food that somehow taps into what is basic, beautiful, important.

So here are my current rules about food:

1. At the very least try avoid processed food. Eat food that looks like food. Vegetables, meat, lentils, bread, grain. You should know the history of a good before you eat it--grow it, raise it and kill it, harvest or gather the food from a living being.
2. Organic is expensive, easily bamboozles, but overall still gains something. Compost instead of chemical, no pesticides. You can still have processed, horrific food. But even then, you’ve probably helped the environment. I’d still go for recognized food over processed food. (Though I do love potato chips.)
3. You can grow your own and buy from local vendors. At least then, you have some sense of where your food comes from. I love farmers markets and have my favorite in Sacramento, and in Seattle (mostly the U-distict). If you can’t grow it, know who did.
4. Pollan’s book gave me some tools for making additional distinctions. That is what I admire about the book (despite it’s limits). Grass fed versus corn fed. That was a useful distinction. I also loved his descriptions of the genre of idyllic food, encouraged a skeptical way to read the brochures, the cartons on the food. That was one of the most useful contributions of his book--encouraging me to bring my lit crit background to food collateral. These skills have informed my decisions about what I bought this past weekend. Be skeptical. Natural.

Bottom line. I’m back to thinking about my childhood experiences (when I knew where food came from and what it cost) and back to my idyllic dreams of young adulthood (close to nature, what I think of as my earth mother phase). In those moments, i was thinking about food with a history I could describe. The farm is sometimes cruel, but at least it is open to view. Food probably should take time. What is more basic?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lesson learned

Bevin and I drove to Missoula last night. Spent today meandering through Montana to idaho Falls, where we’re spending the night. Sunny day. Huge skies. A decent audiobook. Bev happy. A great day.

I’m trying to keep Bev up a little later. So when we arrived here tonight, we went for a walk, ate dinner, went for a walk, and went to a lounge for a drink. Bev had a diet coke, I had a pinot. ( I do realize that the coke probably works against the going-to-sleep-early plan, but this was my best choice.)

Downside: Idaho has not yet happened upon no smoking laws. Having decided, that 30 minutes of dense second-hand smoke wouldn’t kill us, we persevered.

Lo and behold! Lesson learned. Bevin is a great success in bars. A bar plays to all of her strengths. She loves to sip a drink. You don’t have to eat in bars. (Bev is a messy eater.) She loves to watch people. She loves to flirt. And bars are noisy. (Bev, happy can be weirdly noisy to the uninitiated.)

Not sure what the future is here. But definitely an enjoyable evening with my daughter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Idaho elegy

Last July I took a road trip to Idaho to attend the funeral of a cousin. He was a contemporary of my brother, ten years older than me. I have become accustomed to the deaths of our elders. My grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles, they are now all dead. There are few of my relatives still living in southeastern idaho where I grew up. As a child, all of my relatives, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins lived there. Today i received a call from my sister, and my cousin Peggy has died. My cousin Bruce was someone I knew by reputation,, someone close to my siblings. Peggy has a place of prominence in my early memories.

In the most vivid of these memories I am 7 or 8 years old--a 2nd or 3rd grader, I suspect. She was 6 or 7 years older than me. She was my glamorous cousin, who doted on cute little red-headed Susie. Her mother had pretensions beyond us country folk. Her house had china figurines, beautiful pictures, a furnace, a picture window, and wall-to-wall carpet. And Peggy had store-bought clothes. Most of mine were sewn by my mother. I would stay over at my cousin Peggy’s house. She would comb my hair and dress me up. And I would go home with some of those glamorous store-bought hand-me downs. By the time I’m nearing my teenage years, I no longer have many memories of Peggy. I suspect she became too old to be bothered with this little cousin.

The irony is that this glamorous cousin is the one who lived her adult life in southeastern Idaho. She married a farmer and stayed there while the rest of us grew up, went to college, and moved away.

I saw Peggy in July when I went to my other cousin’s funeral. At this point, she probably didn’t know she was sick. She has spent the time since then battling cancer. She called my sister a few months back to tell her about her cancer and let her know that she was hoping to have one of the last couple of burial plots in the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. That was where my cousin Bruce, who spent his adult life in Manatoba, Canada, was buried. It seems fitting that Peggy, one of the only cousins from my mother’s family who stayed in Idaho, should have these plots.

I’m going to drive to idaho again, this time with Bevin. To say good-bye. To my cousin, again to my childhood. I did this last summer. It’s a very odd feeling to go back there. Especially to say good-bye to those who are nearer and nearer to being my contemporaries. But it’s also to look for myself, where I came from, who I am. It’s always hard for me to know exactly how I happened when I go back to my childhood haunts.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Twisted family plots

Almost a decade ago, I was asked to judge a Mormon fiction contest. Slogging through some very terrible novels, I came upon a mystery with a family plot--I can’t remember the details of the book, but I’m sure it was about a mother or a father, a daughter or son, murdering or sleeping with a family member. And the setting was Victorian England (I was working on a ph.d. in nineteenth century British fiction). I voted for this book, and that year the book won. The Mormon author of note for the Association of Mormon Letters, Anne Perry.

A Mormon author unlike the others. I discovered that she was already a best-selling novelist, and a Mormon convert. Talking to a friend, I learned that Anne Perry also was one of the girls depicted in the troubling movie “Heavenly Creatures”--the friend who helped the daughter murder her parents. (The movie was also an intro to Kate Winslet, actress, and Peter Jackson, director). Anne Perry the pseudonym she took when she came out of prison.

Since then I’ve mostly read the Monk series of detective fiction. The policeman whose memory has been lost. The nurse from the Crimean war, Hester. The two eventually marry. Always, those twisted family plots.

I took the opportunity in Menlo Park to go to a reading by Anne Perry. Heard her talk about a regular writing schedule and teaching Sunday school.

I won’tjudge this woman’s fiction. I just read it with continued fascination. I would like to be as spunky, brave, outspoken as Hester. Right now I’m listening to a Pitt mystery--Charlotte and her husband. She’s also spunky, brave, outspoken. And her husband, like Monk, is an outsider, odd, but a good man and underneath a kind and sensitive husband, lover. Also a good policemant, who can always use his wife’s help. Who wouldn’t want such a man.

Still I continue to be fascinated by those plots, given this complicated history. The current book--two baby bodies unearthed in a public garden square. Abortion, murder, sex. Anne Perry at her best. My beloved Mormon author.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reading out loud

I am an audiobook addict.

I love being read to. I love going word by word through a book, listening, paying attention. Doing the different voices.This is the closest I come to meditation. In blessed moments, listening to a book takes me out of myself, stops the restless play of my mind.

I’m not so good at reading out loud to myself. I’ve been experimenting with this over the past week. Reading Hardy poems out loud. And today, I may have been lucky. The rain drove Bevin and me back to our rooms earlier than I planned. I wanted to read, so I read out loud to her.

We’ve had a good afternoon. Only the charming Bevin this afternoon. Perhaps we have found something new to share, riding, walking, reading. I hope so.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


I’m trying to ween Bev from the anti-depressant. I want to figure out what her baseline is. I just haven’t had enough continuing time with her over the past five years to know what makes sense. I took her to a doctor last week, and he agreed this makes sense.

So for this week, I’m halving her perscription--1/2 tablet, rather than 1 tablet each night. For the past couple of days, she’s been mostly half and half. I’m trying not to reward “bad” behavior. That means, when she’s really out of control, I’m trying to find a safe, time-out place for her to calm down. I don’t want to take her driving or take her walking (both things she really enjoys) when she acts out. I’m harkening back to early training. Bore the nasty behavor. Find a quiet, dark, boring place where she can stay until she finds her calmer, more charming sense. I’ve created a place like that in my house.

For the detox phase, I’m cheating a bit. I’ve been taking her driving. Though I let her in the car only when she’s got herself more or less together. Yesterday, we did a ride to Concrete and then to one of the islands and on the ferry. Now I’m spending two days on the Olympic Penninsula at Rialto Beach--one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I think. I’ve found a great little place to stay here on a river about 5 miles or so from the beach. I want her to have it easy not going psycho while we detox. I believe in contributing to her success. So far we’ve done pretty goo. Though she did spend a little time in the closet here tonight (bored finally) until she decided the bed sounded better. She’s now bored, sleepy, in bed. . . . . . . .

Two weeks at 1/2 says the doctor, and then take her off for a couple of weeks. We’ll see where that leaves her and whether I have the patience.

I like the happy Bevin better than the psycho Bevin. . . . .

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sleepless in Salt Lake City

I was concerned back in January after talking to one of Bevin’s caretakers in Salt Lake City. She told me that Bevin had been having trouble sleeping. She got up in the night and wandered through the home, slamming doors, stashing things in closets. One night she had even managed to go outside and set off the alarm. I had always thought of Bevin as a girl with an infinite capacity to sleep, so this development surprised me, alarmed me. To me it was a sign of Bevin’s underlying anxiety. And also probably related to the fact that she was always in a group situation, really didn’t have down time. The caretaker told me that she had never seen her in “veg” mode--resting with a blanket over her head. This is often what Bev does when she’s in group situations and gets overwhelmed. That made me think that she really didn’t have a chance to be in quiet places or alone where she was living. I wondered whether her increasing anxiety, that had to be the cause of her sleeplessness, was related to this.

I heard from Pam, her stepmom, that East Side had put Bevin on something to help her sleep. When I picked her up in Salt Lake City last week, I was given a bottle of her “sleeping” medication. I decided to give her the pills--until I figured out more about what is going on with her. I can’t remember whether I gave her the medication the first night, but I know that I did the other evenings until Saturday night. I decided not to give her the pill but gave her a Benadryl instead. I only had four or five pills left, so I thought I would just stop giving them to her and see whether she could sleep without them.

Bevin’s behavior can be alarming when she has what I think of as an anxiety fit. For some reason, sometimes related to something that has happened but often pretty mysterious as to origin. her emotions run out of control. She begins running around, slamming doors, throwing things off surfaces, flushing the toilet, and making a peculiar “puffing” face. It’s amazing how quickly she can move and how little she responds to any verbal cautions. When she was smaller, she could be restrained when she acted out. But now that she’s older, that’s harder to do. Often I take her walking or driving in the car to help her calm down. Because that’s what needs to happen, she has to somehow get out of the rage of anxiety and back to quieter, calmer place. Bevin’s “normal” self is cheerful and rather cooperative.

Over the past six months or so when I’ve spent time with Bevin, her anxiety fits have been the exception rather than the rule. Occasionally they happen when she is getting ready for bed. She is most vulnerable to losing her cool at times of transition or at those moments of chaos that happen from time to time in a group or family situation.

Bevin woke up last Sunday morning, after her night without the “sleep” medication in a vulnerable mood. She lost her calm by the time she got out of the bathtub--usually a relaxing experience for her. I had a difficult time getting clothes on her. I let her go out and get in the car without getting shoes on her. I was just glad she wasn’t naked. We drove around for a little while, and then I brought her back and gave her breakfast. But I could tell she was still anxious. So I spent the day driving. We drove from 10:00 or so until 5:00. She is always pretty calm when we drive. She loves to drive, and I do too. So we’re a great pair. We drove to Whitbey Island via La conner, took the ferry to Port Townsend, drove back via the Tacoma Narrows. I could tell when we got back she was still on the edge. And she lost it when I tried to get her ready for bed. She started running around, pretty much naked, and I couldn’t calm her down. I also wasn’t inclined to go driving again. I knew that I had to get her calmed down in the house. I herded her downstairs where there were fewer things to throw and clear from surfaces. I finally cleared out the bathroom and blocked the door until she sat down. Finally she let me sing to her, rug her back, and finally put her nightgown on. Eventually I coaxed her into bed.

I had given her the “sleeping” pill before I tried to get her ready for bed, beginning to wonder whether the behavior was related to not taking the pill.

She woke up the next morning a different person. She was cheerful, funny, cooperative. And remained so for the whole day. We drove a little, but mostly we worked around the house, went for a walk. And she watched Barney, an old favorite from childhood, on the TV. I gave her the pill again last night, and she’s been Bevin the charmer all day again today.

Obviously I also began researching her “sleeping” medicine--trazodone. It turns out that it’s an anti-depressant, in particular used for anxiety and prescribed some times for sleep problems. It is one of the drugs that has been noted as problematic in teens--causing sometimes thoughts of suicide etc. Obviously taking her off the medicine quickly is a problem at this point. I’m left wondering about next steps here. Maybe this is just the thing to help her manage anxiety. But I also wonder how much of the anxiety is biological and how much contextual. I’m thinking that I somehow need to get to ground zero with Bevin, to figure out where she is, before I can begin making good decisions about her future. I can’t imagine putting her into another group situation until I have a sense of just what her emotional, physical situation is.

I did refill the medicine and found a doctor to see her this Friday. I want to begin working on a plan to figure out who and how Bevin is at this point in her life. That has to be the first step here.

Will she also be sleepless in Seattle? Or can she find her way to a calmer self? I just don’t know.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An inappropriate friendship?

I’ve been going through Bevin’s discharge paper. Interested to learn just a little bit more about her “inappropriate” friendship with a girl at her group home. Bevin has always been one to form friendships--her ability to do that has often left me meditating on the nature of friendship. But that’s another story.

Here’s what was “inappropriate” about her relationship with her most recent friend--according to her discharge papers. They were cuddling and, I take it, touching each other. Though who knows what that means. Given the structure of their lives, I suspect that it was mostly cuddling, holding--a head on a shoulder. . . . .

Now Bevin doesn’t have any ability to contemplate her life. So I’ve been thinking about what she knows about friendship, love. I’m not sure of the total range of her patterns for friendship, love. That’s how she lives her life--according to patterns. And my concern about this has a good deal to do with why I am bringing her to Seattle. I don’t know, can’t know, that much about the details of her life in Utah, the patterns of her existence there.

Here’s what i do when we’re together, my pattern of interaction. I cuddle with her. I hold her in my arms. I stroke her back, her hair, her hands. And I have this strong sense of how she takes to this touching. She opens herself. I know she hasn’t had much of such physical comfort in the pattern of her life. A person should have this. The luxury of touch from one who loves you.

I’ve often worried about her sexual vulnerability. To those men/boys in her environment who don’t understand, but could still hurt her. To those who do understand, and would still hurt her.

I hadn’t thought about a friendship such as the one i read between the lines in her discharge papers. How would she know this was “inappropriate”? Was it? In the world she was in, where did she find the touch that she longs for. How do we decide what “should” be?

I find myself with more sympathy, than judgment.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Bevin and I arrived in Seattle this afternoon. Settling in. . . . . . .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The adventure begins

Friday was my last day at work until May 21. I leave tomorrow to drive to Utah. I'll pick Bevin up at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Burn her bridges.

And then the adventure begins. I am so looking forward to bringing Bevin to Seattle.

Friday, February 09, 2007

My eddy in the global economy

Recently I’ve been attending to my own eddy into the global economy. I was given the job at my work of “mentoring” a new doc team in India, charged with supporting and documenting Adobe products that are being engineered there. Unfortunately we didn’t have a stellar beginning. Too late. Every decision tactical--and a bit late at that. Never quite got ahead of the curve. . .

For the past week (and this continues next week), we’re hosting our new writing manager (pretty much “all” of the doc team in India) from Bangalore. Welcome to Adobe, our group, corporate America.

I just did a google search on Bangalore. I’ve been hearing all week from Guru of the virtues of Bangalore. He’s definitely a home boy. Grew up there. Proud. Silicon Valley of India. Educaton. English spoken in the home (an important point for a writer writing in English for an American audience. Interestingly, he couldn’t tell me the population of Bangalore. The internet tells me it’s somewhere between 5 and 6 million--a pretty big city by American standards. Certainly he finds our mild 50 degrees of the past week cold. He did let me know that my love of driving would be difficult to maintain in India.

I’ve been putting off making a judgment about Guru. He arrived in the middest--never a comfortable moment. A minor crisis on his first day. Perhaps his name is a harbinger?

It’s an interesting puzzle to put together a picture of a person conjured up from a time zone discrepancy of 13.5 hours. I’ve learned that folks in Bangalore work late. That means that if I’m on e-mail by 7 in the morning, I have perhaps 30 minutes of real-time e-mail with my colleagues in India. If I send an e-mail at 7:00 a.m., they’re answering my message at 8:30 p.m. These global conversations demand patience. I send a message in the morning. I get my answer (if my friends in India are attentive) 24 hours later. In this world of instant messaging, an abberration, a frustration, a chance to contemplate.

I have been working with two folks in India--I realized with chagrin today that I’m not even sure both work in Bangalore. Does one work in Noida? A female project manager who knows almost nothing about writing. But she’s clearly competent, proactive, fearless. She is always pressing at the edges, moving folks forward, forging into a space with a meeting, a suggestion, an action item. Since she knows nothing about docs, I’m as often dismayed by what i face when i fire up my e-mail in the morning as I cheer. But I do cheer. She is smart, active, accessible, flexible. No matter how often I have to pull her back, press her in another direction, I find her a pleasure to work with.

And then there’s Guru. After a week, I’m left cautious in my estimation of his prospects in the company, and a bit sad. I like him. He’s clearly accomplished in the world he inhabitants. I’ve learned that competent tech writers are far scarcer in India than engineers (and pretty much all competent tech writers, and even more editors, aspire to management). He has some six years of experience with such tech companies as HP. I do believe, after a week in discussion with him, that he is well informed, competent in his sphere. But I fear he is too accommodating, too deferential, too cautious to succeed in the situation he’s in.

And I’m left contemplating questions I can’t answer. How much of this is Guru? Why do I respond to Bhavna, despite her innocence of my profession? Why do I worry about him? How much of this is cultural? How much of this has to do with gender? How much is simply transactional, tactical?

I’m far too tired this Friday night to answer this question. But these are clearly questions that are in the center of my work life going forward. Do I have the tools to do a good job here? I am an Idaho girl after all? How did I end up here on this frontier? Never knew this is what I was preparing for. . . .

Monday, February 05, 2007

The aging of ordinary

I just finished reading a blog posted by someone I knew at a distance during my college years. This person went on to become a professor, the professor of my son, and in the end his friend. He now blogs at the same site as Nathan. Jim posted a fine blog on the ordinary.

Here’s a passage from the post that arrested my attention:

                Much about the ordinary world has changed in my life time, though I am not yet sixty. I was born in rural Missouri, and when I was born rural telephone systems were mostly party-lines, phones were hand-cranked, electricity was a relatively new arrival (within 30 years, and often much less), and for many people water pumped by hand and out house toilets were ordinary. Before my children were all born, that had all changed. The order of the world in rural Missouri was very different than it had been. And, as an expatriate of Missouri, I have changed even more than has my birthplace. Today I seldom think about what it takes to get water, and I use my Trio for phone calls, e-mail, and my calendar, wishing at the same time that I’d perhaps waited and bought an IPhone. Though I come from a long line of people who did what they called “honest work,” day-laboring, small-scale farming, blacksmithing, and machine work, I make my living as a bourgeois professor of philosophy.
                Nevertheless, though the ordinary is common, customary, and usual, it is also not something to be ignored. Indeed, we ought to celebrate that things such as vaccination, full supermarkets, city sewage systems, treatments for cancer and epilepsy, public transportation, private cars, mobile phones, cable television, literacy and education are all now ordinary, and all deserve our praise. Our lives are what they are because so much has become ordinary, and we ought to labor and pray that what is ordinary for us becomes ordinary for many more. We live longer and more comfortably because of many extraordinary things that have become ordinary. We know more and have access to more because of other extraordinary things turned ordinary. What was outside of the ordinary has become part of it and is no longer much noticed or noted.

Reading this, I’m left contemplating aging. I remember a childhood ordinary very similar to Jim’s. Setting aside the whole Mormon thing--rural Missouri in the 50s was much like rural Idaho. Jim is describing my experience too. I grew up in a rural town of 350 inhabitants, six miles from the big city of 3000 (doctor, bank, grocery store, library, drug store, Penney’s). If anything, my adult life has pushed to the edge of the new ordinary even more aggressively than Jim’s. I work for a software company, live in a large city. It’s part of my job to play with, and document, changing technology-- Web 2.0, tag clouds, social bookmarks, blogs, flickr, podcasts, WIKIs, and so on. I have a cell phone, a laptop, an IPOD, a Trio is one click away. . .

Over time, this is what I came to resist about growing older: getting frozen at some moment in time, losing vulnerability to the unknown and to change. I knew what middle-aged women looked like and did with their time as I grew up. Once you married and joined the group: you had shorter hair and had it done at Marion’s on the edge of town. You left behind young clothes, young things. Whenever I’ve started to feel stuck, frozen, in my life. I’ve tended to make what I’ve come to think of as a “leap”--and started a new version of my life. I never became the young married woman my mother raised me to be.

In the language of Jim’s post today, a series of ordinaries have been my life. I still resist getting frozen in time. But I do find that I increasingly survey the past with indulgence, fondness, sometimes a sense of loss and regret. I’m thinking more and more that I want to approach life as I’ve always, through this life of change, approached my books. Books are the one continuing thread of continuity in my life. Reading, especially novels, narratives, stories. I have expanded my sense of books. I now listen to as many books (I love my iPOD), perhaps more, than I read with my eyes (which like everything else age).

I’ve always collected books. I keep them around after I’ve read them. I buy more than I’ll every read, keep them on my shelves, hopefully look forward to reading them some day. Love living in their company.

I’ve been contemplating the changes I want to make to my house. And I’ve decided that I’ll build book cases, in the study, in the basement, maybe even in the bedroom. I love to collect. Look back as well as forward. I love the old ordinary, the aging ordinary. I don’t want to lose it. But I hope that I’ll always be open to something new. Looking for a way to build just a few more shelves. Though I do reserve the right to throw some things out.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Middle management

Between my early twenties and my early fifties, I never held a full-time job. To be honest, I generally held multiple jobs. Part-time jobs when my children were younger. Multiple jobs, at the same time, as they grew--graduate student, teacher, editor, writer, single mother. But 40 hours a week at one job never.

In my early fifties, I was hired as an editor in the documentation group at Adobe, a software company in Silicon Valley. To tell the truth, this was my first “company.” And, to my knowledge, the first I had ever had a “manager.”

During my first months on the job I used to laugh with friends that folks at my new job were gullable enough to think of my ignorance as “fresh perspective.” I had a very good gig. Within the first few months, my boss asked if I wanted a permanent job. I said yes. And then a couple of months later, she asked whether I wanted to be promoted to manager. Since each “yes” on my part meant more money, I began my trip up the corporate ladder. I was a bit chagrined to learn that, as a manager, I was expected to lead and manage entire projects. Still I coped. And within three years I had been promoted to the position of Director.

At which point I began to contemplate in a more organized way what this meant. I was sent to a year-long set of classes for “Women Unlimited”--women, as I was led to believe, on their way up. I spent one full day a month for an entire year attending these classes. I play acted, talked, listened, met with my mentor, listened to our coaches, contemplated what it mean to be a woman on her way up. Contemplated ultimately my own misery. On the final day, each of us graduates stood and told what we had learned, what we planned to do with our future. I stood, admitted my sense of being misplaced--and described my plan to get out of my job. I was lucky to talk my boss into cutting my job in half, hiring a new director, and demoting me to exalted editor and middle manager. And I took the opportunity to move from the center office to Seattle.

Where I have been for five or six years--coming on my 10th year anniversary with the company, a very good company. An ethical company, a humane company full of smart, creative people.

But ultimately the job of a middle manager is a thankless one. I’m not a particularly social person. I prefer solitude, books, walking, driving, writing. I hate parties. It takes a good deal of energy to expend myself in minor social situations. And I spend most of my time in rooms with people listening to their problems, trying to find solutions, making tough decisions that never make anyone happy. Today I came face to face with my continuing sense of misplacement , alienation, as I listened to a writer, strung out at the end of a project, unhappy with his manager, tell me what a mess our group is, of the miasma of fear and distrust, and so on and so on. When I contemplate my work, I can feel pride at progress, change. I have a modest sense of what one should expect of a job, of a company.

But I’m wondering again. Why?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dear reader

My son, it turns out, discovered this blog and has visited it from time to time. He was left scratching his head about the question of audience.

Do I imagine an audience? Is this really public discourse? Not sure I have a good answer for a good question. Certainly what I have been writing is personal, random, modest, no obvious thread of continuity. I’ve been happy to think I have no readers. Though the gesture to publish rather than leave this on my desktop must be significant. Why have I been doing this?

Mostly the gesture comes from a lifetime of journal writing. I’m tired, bored, disgusted with what I have made of the journal. I have some random scribblings that go back to grade school. But I have journals, not daily, but consistent, since I went off to college. I have boxes of these things. And mostly I find it difficult to read them. I write when I’m frustrated. I use these journals as personal therapy. So they are full, mostly of the miseries of my life. Daily miseries are repetitious--and boring. For the most part, I don’t particularly like the person who emerges in these journals.

And I’ve had a fair amount of experience with journals. I have worked as a historian for significant periods in my life. In particular I spent a huge stretch of my middle life working daily on an amazing journal--that of Wilford Woodruff, which begins in the 1830s and continues into the 1890s. He was dedicated enough in his journaling that if he didn’t write he accounted for his lapses when he returned. On more than one occasion he wrote of his own illnesses, stopping only when he lapsed into unconsciousness. That happened with his final illness. He details this illness until days before his death.

I started by indexing the nine volumes of Wilford’s journals that had already been published. And then I excerpted from the 900 plus pages to create a one-volume version, published as “Waiting for World’s End.” This was rarely an introspective journal but always a descriptive one. And that description makes it core in plotting the story of Mormonism in its first century and the story of Utah in its first decades as well. A journal to come to again and again. It stands up.

I’ve always been entranced by those literary journals, where great writers captured glowing words that found their way into poems and novels. But that’s not what I wrote. For the most part, I fear, my journal deserves a fire, not a reader.

I realize that mostly I’ve found myself exhausted by my own journal. So this blog began as an attempt to bring discipline to my personal writing--or more precisely my writing about the personal. I would be embarrassed to publish my journal. This exercise forces me to reflect on my experience, shape it a bit.

So perhaps, I’m mostly still the reader. But I want to find a way to find some pleasure myself in what I write. Maybe that will help me find a public voice and even confidence to search more aggressively for a dear reader.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The latest on my idiot girl

Things are progressing.

My application at work has been approved. With luck, my family leave will begin on February 19.

I’ve heard that Bevin qualifies in Washington. When she moves here, the application can go in? What does that mean? I admit I’m feeling major anxiety. I will bring Bevin to Washington. But I don’t know what that will mean for my life.

Something that really hit me. I just realized that Bevin has spent more time in her life in group homes than with me, at home. How could that be? I just want to make sure that she has a good life. I’m not sure that has been the case over the past few years. i can’t continue to prioritize her life over mine. What makes her happy is very different from what makes me happy. I want to be realistic about that. I am so blessed that she is easily pleased. But I can’t take advantage of that. And I do want to make sure that her life is good. Thought I want my life to be good too.

Thomas Hardy: Things to write and think about

I’m currently reading a biography of Thomas Hardy by Claire Tomlin. I think it’s a very good book. Here’s what it’s made me think about in my own life. I want to write about both.

--Hardy at the death of his first wife wrote an incredible cycle of poems. Some of my favorite in his oevre. Her death, the end of the story, helped him to look back to the beginning. And those poems are about the beginning. I’ve been thinking that I need to write in a sympathetic vein about Richard, my first husband, the father of my children. It was good that I left him.But I wouldn’t be the person I am without him. So I need to make that clear, to myself, to my children.

--Hardy because of education and personal impulse left behind his roots. Much of the insight and energy and brilliance in his work came from a sense of being alone, finding no home, alienation from his roots--and yet love and yearning after what he’s lost. I identify here. And I want to write about that experience in my own life.Come to some kind of understanding, reconciliation, foregiveness.

I’m very much enjoying this book. I am downloading “Return of the Native.” I’ll be listening to that book again soon, returning myself.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A miracle

That saves me from my moral dilemma.

Someone at work told me to freeze my cell phone to help it dry out. So I did. After a couple of days, I extracted it from the freezer. Before I went to bed last night, I plugged it into the charger. It lit up to tell me it was charging. I woke up this morning to a helpful message that it was charged. So I took the obvious next step. I turned it on.

Voila! It started. No fanfare. No problems. Picture of my daughter still on the desktop. All my phone numbers stored. Message about voice mail (5 or so from my husband frustrated that I wouldn’t pick up).

At a meeting today, I exclaimed, "It’s a miracle."

And my co-worker quipped, "You’re pregnant?"

" No, I laundered my cell phone. I froze it. And now it works."

“Now, that’s the miracle,” he agreed.

Dodged that one. . . . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Moral Dilemma

Over the holidays, my husband and I changed our cell service. And as a result got new cell phones. Cool razor phones--is that the term? Fit easily in the pocket. Easy text messaging, pictures, and so on. Great fun.

Well, that was the problem. Easily fits in the pocket. A couple of nights ago I managed to launder my new cell phone. Went through the entire cycle.Found it the next morning. Very wet and very dead.

So here is my husband’s solution--after giving me a predictable little lecture on how I’m always the one to do this kind of thing. That’s another story. But I digress. . . . . His solution: take it back to Costco, play dumb. It quit. Need a new one. You should give me one.

My husband has proved over time that Costco has an amazingly liberal return policy. He has used items for years (I don’t think I exaggerate) and then returned them. Now for me this seems suspect. I don’t believe I can do this. I don’t think I can return my cell phone and maintain my cool. I will cave. I will tell them that I laundered it. I will tell the truth.

The dilemma? Two-fold. There’s the part where my dear husband continues to lecture me on my incompetence. I think that returning the phone partially redeems me in his view. I don’t like to be criticized. I’m a great avoider. So do I go against my moral, my commitment to truth telling, in order to avoid the struggle with him. But at a deep level, this little description is a blind to hide the deeper issue. Whatever brave face I put on this, I’m thinking about sending the phone to him (he lives in another state--yes, yet another story). He can return the phone. That way, I won’t have to. I won’t have to lie. But I won’t have to buy another phone.

Now this gets to the real moral dilemma. Exposes the real weakness of my position--and my character. I don’t want to do the dirty work. But I’m pretty sure I would be willing to reap the rewards. I’d be happy to have a new cell phone, a free one. This wouldn’t be the first time I’d be willing to reap the rewards of my husband’s willingness to push at the limits. He downloads music. He downloads movies. He downloads TV shows. I buy them. I work for a software company and have a lofty view of intellectual property. Still in the end, I copy his music, his movies, his TV shows to my computer, and to my ipod. I enjoy the fruits that drop from the tree of his view on what is fair and proper.

And there in is the dilemma. Or perhaps, to be blunt, my failure. I’m simply weak. I don’t have the courage of my convictions--or perhaps, to get to the point, my lack thereof.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I watched Dumbo this weekend with my 5-year-old granddaughter and my 2.5 year-old grandson (one of two). I can’t remember when I last watched Dumbo. But it was at least as interesting to watch my grandchildren watch Dumbo as it was to watch the distantly remembered movie from my own childhood.. The granddaughter loved it. Watched every minute. That was Clara. The grandson was a bit more on the edge. That was Sam.

Admittedly the sound was just a wee bit muddled. This was on my iPOD (I bought it from Apple site), played through the TV. (Another story, just far have we come since I last watched Dumbo. I’m not sure I even took my own children to Dumbo. Maybe the last time I saw this movie, I was a child. That is like the plot of a science fiction movie, at least one I would have watched when I was a child.)

Sam fidgeted. I had to do a running commentary of excited interest to keep him at the show (also pausing for the cookies). He did manage the movie all the way to the end, if just barely. What struck me about the movie was just how little story there was. How much was eddy, song, dance, laid-back singing and story telling. The birds in the tree, the pink elephants. No driving toward a powerful ending. No whamb, bang. It seemed so sweet and meandering. Even I was having a little problem with the pace. Get to bed, get the kids in bed, get the treats done. Get to my own book. . . . . . . .

I had thought something of the same thing the weekend before when we played part of Bambi. The first part of that movie, at least, has no plot beyond growing up, making friends. Compare this to 24 (not a children’s show I would admit). But that story takes the drive toward plot to the edge of the ridiculous and beyond. How many plots, sub-plots, dead ends, can you pack into, of all things, 24 hours. Compare the opening gambit of 24 last week (nuclear holocaust as a teaser, left behind in the end as the central plot??).

This has left me pondering patience. Meandering. Taking time. Not a skill the kids have (but should they yet?). Not a skill I may have any more. How sad. I’m the one who should know how to find a moment, savor, take my time.

Library Thing

I just found a really wonderful site called Library Thing. I had experimented with ReaderWare--cataloguing books that I buy and writing short summaries of books as I encounter them. Help the old failing memory. This site allows this online. I always like web sites--not the need to have local software. You can access the site from multiple locations. Also, it is more easily available to others. I could, if I wanted, shared with my kids or friends. Also, I like the possibility of tags, surrounding chat.

All of this is what we’ve been talking about at work. Thinking of ways to do this with software documentation. So I’m always glad to experiment online. So here’s what I’ve done over the past few days:

(And I’m also experimenting with posting this from a desktop journaling program. I write lots of pathetic stuff I’d never post. Even to this very private public space that no one reads. At least the possibility of the public makes me think twice about “bellyaching.”)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Snow in Seattle amuses me. The city shuts down and waits for the snow to melt. Schools shut down. The roads gridloack. Businesses don't open. No one talks about anything else.

I grew up in southeastern Idaho. Snow in the winter, lots of wind, and below zero temperatures. I walked to school through the eighth grade. Walked to a bus stop and waited for the bus outside until I graduated from high school--and left Idaho. We certainly never had snow days. It never even occurred to my parents to drive me to school. I can remember a few "blizzard" days--snow blowing so there's no visibility, the roads are blown shut with drifts that mount up the side of a house.

We've had some snow days for the past couple of weeks. And I've taken advantage. Stayed home. Worked "remotely." That means that if i send a lot of e-mail I can watch a little TV and walk around Green Lake (if I take my cell phone).

It does make me realize how much the world has changed, or at least my world, since I was a child. Children were pretty much on their own in southeastern Idaho. Get to school. Get home. Entertain yourself. Don't cause trouble (my dad's major advice in life, "don't bellyache. And in my family, your were expected to get good grades. But if you obeyed the rules (dealt with the snow), you were left alone, had your independence.

Probably not bad lessons in life. Not sure if snow in Seattle contributes to the betterment of humanity the way snow in Idaho did.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My new hybrid

I started talking about buying a new car last fall. I had a 2000 Volvo S40 that I loved. Few problems. Driving is my hobby. I love to explore the area, listening to an audio book. My commute is under 3 miles (and alas I drive rather than hop the bus at the corner). Most of my miles come because I love to drive. It goes back to Sunday drives with my family. Or weekend drives. To Yellowstone. To Teton--Jenny's Lake. I lived within a day's drive of those beautiful places. We used to take a day's drive with a picnic to such places. I think that set my pattern for driving. I love to drive. And since I discovered audiobooks this is a perfect experience. As close as I come to meditation. I love to read. I love to drive. I can do them at the same time. And the lure is hard to resist.

So I love to drive. And I loved my car. But I was concerned that my luck would give out. Seven years with virtually no problems for a Volvo. Everyone seemed to tell me that this couldn't last. So I started to look. Research. Do web searches. Watch cars I saw on the road.

A couple of month's back, I called my husband (he lives in Sacraento, I live in Seattle, that's another story) and started talking about car. "I just saw a Civic Hybrid on the road. Thought it looked interesting. Not so ugly as the Prius. Thought I'd do some research." And my dear husband said, "If you buy a hybrid, I will never ride in your car again." And he hung up.

I wasn't quite sure where to go from there. Who wants a husband who won't ride in your car. But who wants to fall into such a threat. I did what I'm good at--and this time around this was the best I could have done. I just didn't think about it much.
A dilemma. I was clear about that. I didn't want to fight with him. But I didn't want to fold. So I just waited. Continued to look at cars.

Why was he so against hybrids? Mostly the Prius. Someone here in Seattle put it in words for me. The smug factor. Don couldn't deal with the smug factor floating around the Prius. And I had to admit the Prius is ugly. And i've met the smug before. A waste of money. He spent 20 plus years dealing with car dealers and car credit. It will take, and I'm convinced, 5-7 years to regain the extra cost of the hybrid. You don't save money. It's a waste of money.

Which set me to thinking about why I would want a hybrid. The same reason I recycle. I want to be responsible. That's what I decided. I love to drive. And on one level that may not be a responsible hobby. I want to be responsible as I can. i want to be as little tied to the gas pump as possible. That's why I'm intrigued by the hybrid.

By the time the holidays come. And the time when I was really thinking about buying my car, my husband had mellowed as well. We test drove the Civic. He let me know, quietly, that he could live with the Civic Hybrid. So that's what I bought over the holidays. I'd rather get 40 mpg rather than 20+ if driving with an audiobook is my habit. I put 3000+ miles on my car over the two weeks of the Christmas holidays. Obviously my love of driving and reading goes beyond hte normal. So I'm glad to have my hybrid.

I'd rather feel that what i do is responsible, even if the problems of the world won't be solved. I don't want to add. My small commitment.

And I do like my little car. (Except for those fabric seat. These will be a problem!)


I just finished listening to Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I had read the book before but never had it read to me. I didn't expect to enjoy it quite as much as I did or be as impressed. This is an odd and impressive book. Bronte is playing so explicitly with perspective. One of the key themes in the narrative has to do with surveillance and spying--watching, perspective. Much of this is focused through the contrast in the novel between Protestant and Catholic, English and foreign (French). The country is a fictional country patterned after Belgium. Bronte herself studied in Belgium, fell in love there with a teacher. The subject of her first novel, the Professor, a key focus in this one--the love interest, in the end, of Lucy Snow.

Lot of literal spying. But also amazing little set scenes such as the evening celebration when Lucy, drugged but not quite to sleep, wanders through the lit and celebrating streets, alone, distressed, and watches. She sits close enough to listen to those she knows.

A very striking book. Not so easily lovable as Jane Eyre, also a great book. But more unsettling. My Charlotte Bronte favorite.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Growing up

I do have thoughts on issues other than my idiot girl. But right now that seems to be what I write about. So I'll go with that. And then maybe try to prove I think about other things (like politics and movies and tv and food and. . .. .) as well.

There has been a case in the news recently. A family here in the northwest who made the medical decision (and found doctors, ehticists, and a publishing establishment to support them) to freeze their severely handicapped daughter in time. Physically she has been frozen as a young child. On a practical level, I can understand why they did this. And given that I know how difficult it is to make these decisions, I support their decision. Their objectives I can support: love the child, keep her included in their life circle as long as they can. If she gets too big, she'll be hard to carry, hard to include. I respond to this. I see what led them there. The main criterion I have come to use--balancing the life quality of the handicapped child with the life quality of family members. On this front, I can allow what they decided to do. In their situation, I can imagine coming to this decision. My child was never in so extreme a situation. So I won't judge.

On a more metaphorical level, this case becomes more troubling to me. I can understand the impulse. I never considered this possibility in a realistic way for my daughter. She functions at a much higher level. I would never have considered this for me. But I can understand the impulse. I look back with longing for the days when my daughter was young, beautiful, beloved by just about everyone who encountered her. As she gets older, she has become less charming. And fewer people are charmed by her--for long periods. She is still beautiful and charming for that first glance of a second or two.

More troubling, I encounter more frequently the anxieties, the worries, as I realize that Bevin isn't frozen in time. At some level I expected her to be. But she's not. I expected her to always be as she was in her late childhood and early teens. But she's not. She changes. And it's hard to understand why. She talks less. She has trouble sleeping. She gets upset more easily and throws little fits of "puffing." She gets hostile and runs around without her clothes on. She makes messes in her pants and wets her pants--a young lady trained totally from about the age of three. She has anxieties I can't understand. She gets angry. She takes her frustrations out on some unsuspecting person, less capable, in her surroundings. I don't want these changes. I want her to be frozen at her best, most capable, most charming moment.

And it's not entirely selfish. Bevin's life is better if folks are charmed by her. If she stays more like the charming, elfin, odd little thing she was as a child.

So I understand the impulse. For Bevin, she is capable enough that it was right to let her grow up. But I realize I have to expend more of myself to keep her as capable, as charming, as possible. Because Bevin's life is better if folks find it easier to deal with her. As her mother, I have to help keep her within the realm where people treat her kindly, enjoy her presence.

So I totally sympathize with those parents. Imagine a scenario that led to their decision that was generous, focused on that child they love. Not selfish. The adults must have a life in order to give the beloved, needy, totally clueless child a good life too.