Friday, May 31, 2013

Sell me in a garage sale.

Today was garage sale day and to say the least, it was enlightening.  The garage sale culture is one where daughters ask mothers for a $3.00 item for their thirteenth birthday present and mom actually hemmed and hawed over such a request, even after the daughter offered to do chores.  Garage sales are the only place in "sales" if you want to call it that, where someone will actually ask you if you'll take 20 cents for a frame already marked down to a quarter.  This truly happened to me and I profited 40 cents on two frames that probably retailed for a total of $15.  Granted, they were several years old and dinged up, but still... 20 cents.

Max watching his friend drive away.
People literally want something for nothing.  Well not all people... today I was graced by this amazing elderly lady, 82 years old, driven around by her son, in an ancient truck that was barely running.  She was an angel in disguise, who deserved to be pampered, but instead chose to collect the ingredients for terminal patient's care packages.  When I tried to give her items for free, she insisted on paying for them.  (So I dropped my prices 95% and in garage sale speak that means pricing things for mere cents instead of dollars.)  I was in love.  So was Max.  Their friendship was sealed when she gave him a 5 cent tip, a "token in appreciation" as she called it.  She truly put my whole day into perspective.      

Life is somewhat similar to a garage sale, where not just items, but people become old hat and their worth fades to almost nothing in the eyes of others.  Then, just when you least expect it, angels come along and see value, giving an item, or a person, new life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Coming of age

In one of my African History classes at Colorado State we studied the Pokot and Maasai and their coming of age rituals. One includes a drumming dance where the girls transform into young women.  It was somewhat ironic, that tonight during Sage's African drumming concert that I experienced my own overwhelming realization that my little girl is growing up.  I looked at her, dressed up in a style all her own, a look of maturity and total concentration on her face and this wave of emotion washed over me.  The little toddler who used to dance across the family room to a beat all her own, was now finding a new rhythm on a different stage.      

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Little Happy's

Taken while running the other day.
Another "little happy" in my life.
Today as we were on our way home from soccer practice, I looked over at the girls as they joyfully munched on Mc Donald's ice cream cones.  They had enjoyed not only getting the treat, but also the unusually funny character who took our order at the drive through.  He used silly voices and made both of the girls giggle at the unique way he served us.  I realized then, that sometimes life is simply about the little happy's.

Little happy's such as having a heart to heart conversation with those who are far away, like yesterday with my sister Kathleen and then again this morning with my cousin Christi.  Both are dear to me and life sometimes gets in the way of us touching base.  Conversations, that like today, also gave me the ability to study with my daughter Savannah for her World History Final.  We discussed such things as World Wars, Social Darwinism and Enlightenment.  Her knowledge of the terms and desire to do well, really made me proud of what a smart young lady she has grown up to be.  These "phone dates" give the impression that even though we are several hundred miles away physically, our spirits are still there, snuggled right next to one another.

So wether it is an ice cream surprise or hearing the sound of a loved one's voice on the other end of the line, it's the little happy's that get us through the sometimes not-so-happy times.

Side note, an additional "little happy," was the encouragement I received yesterday when I confessed the reasoning behind my blog-a-day goal.  Thank you to all those who take the time to read my thoughts, I truly do appreciate it.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friendly Strangers

I am making a goal, to write a blog a day for a month.  As those of you who read my blog know, my siblings and I no longer have contact with our biological father.  This honestly isn't our choice, but his.  We all hope deep down to have some sort of communication with him, but as of now that isn't possible.  So my way of coping is to look at the blessings from my father and four of them truly have saved my life at different points.  My siblings.  We may talk daily, weekly or sometimes monthly, but no matter, our hearts are always connected.  I once described the love between my all of us (including my mom)  as a root system that is so gnarled and interconnected that you can't pry it apart, it's unbreakable. 

My siblings are my support system and they have been pressuring me to write more and even publish.  I think they know me better than myself and have helped to plant the seeds of a long time dream of mine to write a book and possibly include some of my photography.  I am not sure when or if that will happen, but in the mean time I need to at least make the commitment to try.  So this goal, a blog a day is for them.  I love you all so much!

This first blog is dedicated to my family and to a new member of the club that we all belong to, called the I don't know a stranger, club.  Personally I can talk to the wall or just about anyone you put in front of me (my husband can attest to this) and apparently, my son Max is following in his momma's footsteps.  

Max and his new friend at the girl's soccer game.
Today we were checking out at Target. Max was just sitting there and out of the blue pointed to the sales lady at the next counter and said, "thats my friend."  She glanced our way, looking surprised at this declaration, but soon played along and acted as if they knew each other well.  As we were leaving they said their good-byes, but he wasn't done making friends.  At his cajoling, we stopped at  Starbucks on our way out to get him a milk.  As we were paying he turned to the couple behind us and said, "those are my friends."  They too looked caught off guard, but also quickly played along and asked him about the car he was holding.  He made sure to inform them it was "an ambulance."  Both of them laughed and asked him how old he was.  "Two," he proudly informed his new "friends."  They commented to me how smart he seemed, I smiled and took the compliment.  

I agree with them, he is smart and not just because he knows his shapes, how to count and that a truck just isn't truck, but an ambulance.  Max is smart because he knows one simple, yet very important thing, life is much better if you are friendly and treat others kindly, no matter who they are.  Unfortunately I, like many, have had to deal with my share of bullies, people just so miserable that they can't be anything but mean and judgmental.  It's been a process to realize I can't change these people, but I can hopefully raise my children to be the opposite of them; friendly, kind and not afraid to call complete strangers, friends.

One additional side comment about my biological father.  He too is a writer, a genius with his words, using them both to eloquently bolster and demolish a person's psyche.  As I have dealt with the negative people in my life who continue to try and damage my spirit, I have been tempted to share this in order to bring light to their true nature.  However, while that day may come, I am a beacon for my children and an example of how to not only act, but also react to the way others treat me.  As my husband has said more than once, just because they say it, doesn't make it true.  I will take my father's love for writing as a blessing and leave his injurious words (as well as other's) behind.  This is my story and only I can truly narrate the path I have taken as well as the journey yet ahead.      

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day: A Conversation with my Grandfather about WW II.

Back in the Spring of 1996, when I was a freshman at Indiana University I was given the assignment to interview someone.  I chose to interview my hero and my grandfather, Ugo Frisoni, who was a WW II veteran about his experiences while at war.  He had never spoken of these events and I am honored to this day that he chose to share them with me.  My grandfather would have been 93, two days ago on the 25th, but sadly passed away on January 9th, 2010.  He suffered from Alzheimer's and I believe that he knew back when I did this interview, that his memory was starting to fade and he had decided that he should share his story.

These are his words:

"It was October 1941.  First we went to camp Atiberry, but we didn't stay there long, they shipped us to Camp Ulners, Texas.  There must have been about two to three hundred guys there and they picked out, they named two people to come out, it was myself, Ugo Frisoni and Leon Monhoot.  They put us in headquarters and the reason for this is both of us were trained in counting.  I was an Indian guide and he was in boy scouts.  And we trained for three months...

The tape recorder died... My grandfather went on to explain all the different places he had been.  At the point where I started to record again he was in Okinawa and had just been shot...

"Anyway, they got me on this jeep.  And as I said to Captain Gaddy as we we pulling away, bullets just followed us all the way and could have killed all of us.  But they got me, they took me to a clearing station, they had some hospital tents set up because a lot of people had been wounded.  I was in this tent and uh, they worked on it.  Just all they did was put gauze bandage through that, right through the leg.  

"Through the hole?" I asked 

Yes.  They finally knew at last the bullet had come out the back.  They had to keep that wound open.  I was in that medical tent , I don't remember exactly how many days, not too long, cause then they put me on a hospital ship.  Then on the hospital ship is when they started working on my leg.  But I do remember this pain when they pulled the gauze out, I thought they were pulling my leg off because they were hitting all those nerves.

"It hurt that bad?" I asked

"ohhhhhhhh God (sort of laughing)!  

"O-kay, so let me summarize, this happened on April 28th?"  

"Yeah, it happened on April 28th.

"When did you land there in Okinawa?  Did this happen right after you landed?"

"No, no I think we landed there after the first of April.  So it was longer than that.

"And one day you were just going with your Corporal...?"

"Well I got an order to go and find out why our troops were not able to advance and I decided to go with him.  I didn't have to go.  During the time from April 1st, that was the landing, uh, during that time we had been shelled a lot up where we were in our observation post.  I used to take them on the side of the ridge, during the day we were on the top of the ridge, and on the side of the ridges the Japanese people would bury their dead.  And I found one and we would get in there at night and we just kicked the bones around and we just stayed there at night after all that shelling was done.  At night they would shell that whole ridge.  And I would just take my whole troops down there, my whole gang down there and kick everything around and it was after that when I got my orders to find out why our troops were not doing anything.  We wanted to find out why.  

"The Corporal got the order to go look?"

No, I got the order, my job was, I would send the Corporal, because he is the guy I had with me.  I didn't have any Sergeants.  So at that time, he was doing something else, so I decided to go with him.  I was probably tired of just sitting there.  I didn't have to be there.  I could have been at head quarters. 

"When you first got there you landed on shore in those dingy boats and then you all had to get on the beach and run?"

"We landed on the beach, we didn't know where to go, some Major or some Colonel or some General, told Lieutenants, the high-ranking, I was just a Tech-Sergeant.  I didn't have as many stripes as these other guys did.  So I just got orders after the Japs, most of the zeros (Japanese planes I think), a lot of them got hit.  

"So after you got hit, was there a hospital on Okinawa?"

"No.  There was a hospital ship.  After the tents, there were all these wounded and they did what they could, then they put me on a hospital ship.  And what I wanted to tell you what they did first thing, in the tent there, they put this Vaseline gauze to keep it open and when they pulled that Vaseline gauze out, hitting all those nerve centers... I thought they were pulling my leg right off my body.  I still remember that. Right now I'm getting chills."

"I was in four different hospitals.  They moved me to four different hospitals, three of them in the islands, one in Honolulu, one in ah.... I can't remember.  From Honolulu I flew to Battle Creek, Michigan.  And then I got a convalescent leave two or three times, thirty days and then I had to go back and they would check me again.  I think a total of three months.  It was months from when I got shot till I got back to Michigan.  

"How long were you away from Grandma?"  

"A total of six months.  But then I was able to come home from Battle Creek, Michigan, which was nice.  I went back and forth and finally they gave me a release.

"Was it hard when you came home, to get over it all?" 

"Oh, I was glad to get away; there was no question about it.  I wanted to know what happened to my guys, and we started to have reunions and I started to find out about what happened.  I think the information I had received about a week after I was wounded the shooting ended in Okinawa.  The Japanese gave up."

"So you went from Indiana, to Texas and then to the Hawaiian Islands and then where?"

"To Tari Tari and then to Cipan.  I came home then and I got married.  Then I went to Okinawa.  It was my dad's birthday, I remember this plainly.  It was April 28th, I was thinking about my dad, because I'd been home and I'd seen my dad and my mother and Florence too (my grandma).  And then I got wounded.  I still get a little disability pension.  And I get this thing checked.  See, I have no feeling here and my ankle swells up and when I am walking, that thing just gets big.  A lot of nerves had been hit.  I worked at it.  I could have stayed home and not done anything.  I made myself walk and I still do it, I'm still walking.  I did get a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart."

"Where did you get the Bronze Star?"

"I  got the Bronze Star on Makan Island.  The Colonel had been hit.  He was in this hole and had been shelled.  We brought him back, this other guy and myself.  We brought him back, on our way back to headquarters it was dark, night time and we tried to just lay out in the ground.  While we were there, two Japanese kids walked into our area and this guy from New York said, "Let's kill the bastards!"  And we cornered them and the big guy, the big Jap., he broke away.  The New Yorker clubbed him over the head and the next day we took him in to headquarters."

"Cipan is where we didn't get to change our clothes for a month.  We slept in water, or we rested, I don't know that we slept much.  We had a tough time getting food.  We killed cows that had been eating our dead bodies or at least were around them.  I slept in water, every time you turned the water was cold.  The water had a way of warming up a little if we didn't move."

During the remainder of our conversation, my grandpa kept commenting about nightmares and was concerned this conversation would bring them back.  

The conversation did bring on nightmares and I remember when my grandma mentioned this to me during a phone conversation, it made me very sad.  She told me it was okay and put my Grandpa on the phone.  He told me that he had never talked about it and wanted to do so at least once, so not to be upset.  He then changed the subject and asked about my life and how school was going.  That's just like him after all, as my grandpa was a proud, respectful and stoic man who until then, had never spoke of the war.  The same went for his work accomplishments.  He was a successful Chief Engineer for Studebaker and then Ford Motor Company.  I found out about one of his accomplishments, not from him, but while visiting the Henry Ford Museum and seeing his name on a plaque.    As they say, he was one of the good ones, who always got his work done in order to take care of his family.  

On this memorial day, he deserves to be remembered and honored not only for the type of  soldier he was, but also the type of man he became.  I am proud of my grandpa and miss him everyday.

I love you Grandpa.  I wish you were here.           



I have been going through things while cleaning and packing for our move.  Yesterday I found a book with a journal entry that I wrote while I was still in Africa in June 2009:

A "hostel" greeting.  I heard them in the distance screaming and singing from their core and running at Beth their Momma Africa!  I cried out in wonder at such a massive sight of love and hugs and gratefulness... but wait!  Were they now running to me? Was I off my feet?  Were they now hugging me?  Singing and yelling with joy!  My heart was won in Africa standing there in the street!

The nets were few the people still many, my heart began to break.  It shattered down to my core to see the desperation  But they stood all day in a blazing sun, hungry babies on their back and now they go home empty handed. 

Wake up Africa!  6:30 am Bell toll, singing starts thereafter, rooster has been going already for hours.  Geese guarding their eggs, five varieties of birds discussing the long awaited rain.  Insects chattering through their bath.  The only silence comes from the bats who were up all night partying and dive bombing the mosquitos away.  

Everyone should visit Africa if you want a change of life where logs are chopped down and twigs set just so, waiting for the rain and mud to make walls and floors.  Kitchens made to stand alone, water fetched from miles, beans beat on the ground so that pods could be shucked dry.  Corn stands tall making a snack for chickens who wander to and fro.  Little ones chew on sugarcane, big ones hard at work, washing done by hand here.  Cars do not exist, a bike is a luxury, TV you must search for, but what's the point of that? Latrining, latrining what a lot of fun!  A hole behind a door outside in the sun.  You crouch and "ease" wiping away the flies.  wipe up, clean up, what a lot of fun!

I think I saw God smile today in Africa as I was walking down the road.  He was masquerading as an old woman bowing at my feet, hugging and kissing me, parading her Rosary like gold.  Or was he the child, rags hanging from her protruding belly, with bare feet mutilated from chiggers and a fly encrusted head.  She smiled at me, she laughed with me, she didn't notice my tears.  I know I saw God today in two small friends.  They held hands and giggled over a tiny little prize.  I prompted them to show me, they did without delay, unclasping such a treasure, a tiny bottle cap.

I never imagined the extent of someone else's nightmare that I would witness while living my dream.  I have never seen those with nothing, give more love than is believable. I have never seen heaven and hell all in the same day until I came to Africa.

Typing this brought back memories and tears.   I remember writing those words and I am grateful for the perspective that comes from reading them.  My life has changed so much since my journey to Africa, but a part of my heart will always remain there.  I fell in love with Africa, the people and the spirt that radiates off of them.  I am grateful to Beth and her husband Jim for bring me with them to Uganda with Think Humanity.  I am so proud of them for all their hard work and dedication to making all the refugees lives better.  For more information on how to help visit  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pee Parties and other little Victories of Motherhood...

In honor of Mother's Day, I contemplated what to write about.  It came to me as I thought of myself jumping around, clapping and cheering in the family restroom at Kohl's on Monday. It's the little victories that lead to such things as pee parties, which matter most.  Max and I had walked over to Kohl's while we were waiting for our tire to get fixed at Les Schwab.  I had to use the restroom and decided on going family style so I didn't have to worry about Max crawling under the stall door and escaping.  Oh happy day, sure they had the regular run-of-the-mill toilet, but they also had a very attractive toddler toilet that gained Max's utmost attention.  He hadn't peed on the toilet for me yet, but with his growing excitement for this mini-commode, I thought I'd try.  So I put on a seat cover (of course) and he sat down and peed!  I whooped and hollered in a most animated fashion, which made him excited!  Moments later, just before I was able to get him back in his diaper and clothes; the guy called to tell me our car was ready.  While I was talking to him, Max sat back down and peed more.  I quickly hung up and started the party all over again!  This was a big moment after all.  (Max did get to pick out a prize afterward; the toys were right outside the bathroom and made it too easy.  Although it must be noted, I didn't promise him any such reward prior, he had honestly chosen to pee on his own accord!)

These pee parties and the like are the best part of being a mommy.   They get us through the trials and tribulations of mother-hood.  With this trend of the great roller coaster in mind, I was able to help Sage the other day after her soccer game.  It was the first of the outdoor season and Sage had made not one, not two, but three goals!  She was the only one to score and helped her team win their game.  However, instead of being happy, she was in her "sage mode" and worried her teammates would view her as a ball hog.  I looked at her and told her no, she wasn't a ball hog, just in the right place at the right time.  Going further, I reminded her about the team that she and Saxton were on last spring that didn't win a game, often didn't even have a full 9 person team and were held to just a couple of goals the whole season.  I reminded her that even in such tough conditions, they didn't give up and went to every game and played their hearts out.  As a mom I cheered them on with pride, not because they won or lost, but because of how they played the game.  I told Sage that she deserved those three goals; she earned them by not giving up when things were at there worst.  I told her to celebrate, after all they might be the only ones she makes all season and wouldn't it be a shame if she didn't enjoy it.  She smiled and agreed.  Sage went on to score again this last Saturday and then cheered as two of her teammates scored in a play they had went over in practice.  Her team won again, but I don't think that mattered as much as the lessons she was learning.

With this same concept in mind, Savannah made me proud this spring by going out for track.  However one day, she was unnecessarily tough on herself about how she was performing.  I reminded her of her PRs (personal records) but that more importantly, she was doing something healthy and constructive with her time.  Instead of hanging out after school possibly getting in trouble or making bad choices, she was choosing instead to get in shape and be part of a team.  I was proud of her for that more than anything.  Good for you Savannah, good for you!  

These Mommy moments come in all kinds of ways. Yesterday I was getting the kids ready to take them to school and I asked Brayden where Saxton was.  He told me she was in the car already, never mind it was only 7:54 and we didn't need to leave for at least ten or fifteen minutes.  I laughed with my husband about it later.  It's kind of a joke around the house concerning the fact that she is a drill Sergeant when it comes to leaving for school.  However we will take it, it's much better than the alternative of being late because she doesn't want to go.  I am very proud of the student she has become and how important school is to her.  That's my girl, a nerd like her mom.  So no matter if it is Sergeant Saxton, or other little victories like watching Brayden choose to play cars with his little brother, or Sam getting excited about building villages in X-box Minecraft  (versus more violent games), give me reasons to get excited.

So yes, I celebrated my "Mother's Day Weekend" with a wonderful date night on Saturday and a Sunday in Seattle, walking through Pike Place Market, bike riding on Alki Beach and feeling all the love from my little’s.  And true, come Monday, the laundry, dishes, cleaning and driving were back. But that's all okay, because I also was also able to enjoy a Pee Party and that makes it all worthwhile.

Happy Mother's Day (a few days late in fully mommy fashion) to all my fellow mommas out there!  Love you!

Most importantly, thank you to my little’s who give me the title of mom, I love all of you to the moon and stars and back!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Goodnight my angel

Fifteen years ago today, I was spending my first night as a mother. Much like tonight, I couldn't sleep. I had this new, beautiful, tiny new life to take care of. Savannah was a gorgeous newborn and I couldn't stop looking at her, in awe that I actually made such a perfect little person.

I don't know how to best explain the love a mother has for her child, it's almost unexplainable at times. You're heart truly beats for this other person and the love you feel crosses all boundaries. Savannah being my firstborn, taught me so much about life, love and sacrifice. I truly grew up just days after my twenty first birthday. From that moment, when I first found out I was pregnant, every choice I made, now revolved around her.

Tonight, even though my baby is now hundreds of miles away, her momma is still up, thinking about her, loving her and thanking God for bringing her into this world.

I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.

Happy Birthday my sweet baby girl.