A Blog about a cheerful optimist...
one that has overcome foreclosure, gone back to college for the first time in 27 years, gotten an AA, a BA also...now halfway through the Masters and believes that everything always works out for the best because it really does.
I worked until midnight the night before my Zen walk. I showed up 30
minutes early for the night shift so I could ask my co-workers on payday to
pony up the change in their pockets for Cystic Fibrosis and Zen. I felt my
courage wane as I walked up to my first victim, the big wig. He instantly gave
me a warm smile and pulled out a bill. He graciously asked if it was enough.
I was thrilled. I also asked other co-workers in the break room and down
on the floor. One of my younger bosses told me I was “probably not allowed to
do that.” I had the feeling she was telling me to protect me, but her
discouragement did not stop me. In my mind I was doing this for my young friend
and “probably” was simply not enough of a reason to give up.
It is funny the things we can screw up courage to do and why. For myself
I would not have plodded on with my donation hunting…I realize that now…but my
heart is not the scholar I bill myself to be or my fresh new label of “checker”
that my grocery store has bestowed upon me…my heart is that of a “housewife”
and “mother.” I know that since I lost the house years ago and my divorce kind
of killed my “wife” label I might actually be stripped of both technically but
I can’t seem to shed the loyalties all of us housewives and mothers share. My
heart is always going to side with any child…and Zen is one I know who wears
many labels, a minor one being his CF label.
I ignored being told I should not persist in soliciting donations from my
fellow employees. I casually name dropped my first donor and kept walking on. I
went through all areas of the store and gathered many donations before I had
Everyone donated something or
apologized for not having cash on hand. I took each donation and placed it in
an envelope and scribbled the benefactor’s name on the outside. I had over 15
before my shift ended.
The next morning, I was up before dawn. I wanted to write up the
donations and put them individually on the website but that just did not work.
I had to give up and focus on creating proof of my affiliation with CF and
Great Strides. After a conversation with my dear Ex, Gordon, I realized I also
had to make some sign and print something with the Great Strides logo on it to
add legitimacy to my charity. He said it would be best to get a large sign with
the Great Strides emblem but I did not have time for such a thing since I did
not know until this week that I was walking here in Sonora doing a local walk.
I printed my blog page...I had already created business cards with the
info for how to donate on them.
Ann had gotten up early to see me
off…she wore a proud smile as she hugged me goodbye and told me it was OK to
borrow the truck to gather some more of my boxes of things after the walk.As I backed Mike’s truck out of its cozy home
in the garage I carefully turned fully towards the rear, like my father taught
me to do when backing up.
And that is why I was startled completely
when the driver’ side rear mirror broke clean off as it hit the side of the
garage door.I stopped the truck and
hopped out in my Italian dress, with flowing scarf drooping loftily as I
scrambled to pick up the shattered glass.
Now Mike is a jovial sort but he is a man and they sometimes can react
rather strongly when damage is done to a vehicle. But there was no more time to
waste on problem solving my way out of this mess when I had a walk to somehow
be coordinating. I figured the Universe would figure it out for me on this one.
Since I had run ads and spoken to a few people who said they might show
up…I really had to get to the track with more envelopes in tow in case a few
people DID make it. My friend Sandy
teaches there and she helped me make a sign and gave me tape to slap it up
somewhere. And then I waited. I had my tights on and ballet flats. My dress
made me look nothing like a person who was walking the track, but instead I
smacked of the tourist visiting Italy
just as I had since returning home. Well on any day that I picked out my clothing
I instead of donning my Monkey Suit for the job.
When my start time happened and no one appeared I waited 10 minutes and
started walking. I had completed 3 laps when my daughter delighted me by
showing up with a Starbucks in hand. We
were engulfed in a complex conversation about the dangers of International
Politics and the foreign service (especially the death of the ambassador to Libya
this week!) when another walker joined us. Valerie from the paper showed up and
joined us for a bit longer. I was probably at 3 miles already but I was so
happy to be walking with others, I was not going to stop until forced to.
My daughter left to find out if her tires were now mounted on her car
and finally Valerie left too.
I went to the tire place and found my daughter still there. During the
conversation the friendly guy behind the counter also told me he could look at
the broken mirror. He told me he would call on Monday with a quote on the cost.
I was thrilled. The Universe had taken care of it…without any interference or
planning on my part.
I then took the car to the storage unit and loaded boxes of books in the
rear in a frenzy so I could meet up with my daughter again to look a baby
clothes for a dear friend. Afterwards I ate with Sandy, Mike and Ann. I laughed so hard at
times my eyes watered. The conversations are always funny with any one of us
but when we are all telling stories the content seems to reach new heights.
I visited my work again on the way to water a friend’s yard. I walked
out with even more donations. And I found out I was working withthe girl who had singlehandedly put on the CF
walk I missed in April. Her sister has CF and she understood why it was
important to me.
When I got home to get ready for work, I felt exhausted but it was a
good kind of tired. I was glad I had worked hard and overcome things to
accomplish an important goal. And I know that my real goal of seeing Zen’s life
expectancy go longer and longer was well worth any price I pay.
The first time I
read about Cystic Fibrosis, I was pregnant with my first born child.It was 1986 and I was huge. I usually enjoyed
relaxing my hulking shape in a sunny doctor’s waiting room, killing time
reading. Since there were no National Geographics or Time, I grabbed a ladies
journal and flipped past the multitude of recipes to find myself riveted by the
trials and tribulations of a parent raising a child with Cystic Fibrosis. The
child in the story died at the age of 8 from her CF.
At this point I
had very little contact with children. My own baby was not yet born and my
world centered around my husband and my little sister who was 7 years old at
the time. I was crushed to imagine this
father’s heartbreak…his daughter was only my little sister Boo’s age!
I read about the
father in the story having to help loosen the phlegm in his daughter’s chest
with cupped hands. It sounded like a traumatic experience. Cystic Fibrosis
causes an excess of phlegm in the lungs. In the article the father talked about
how hard it was to pound on her back and chest rhythmically every morning and
evening in order to make the likelihood of her living another day a
probability. Some days his daughter
would beg him not to but he knew her life depended on it so he always followed
through. He was shouldered with the responsibility since his wife did not have
the physical strength to loosen up as much as he could…..and the writer
carefully explained how this procedure went on for years.
I sat reading the article in the doctor’s
office, crying at my own inability to really be a good parent. This guy had the
right stuff. How was I ever going to cope with such life issues? I knew I was
embarking on the most important job of my life, being a mother, but I knew full
well that I was woefully inadequate compared to this guy. My husband then,
Gordon and I were already questioning our ability to really be grownups, (a
sentiment we STILL feel almost daily!) and I knew that this was a touching reminder
of our shortcomings. I knew neither of us had the steel to be able to ignore
any child’s whining, how were we going to be able to make sure we gave the
children what they needed instead of what they wanted?
If Gordon’s daughter begged for him to stop in this case, he would have quit
hands down and so would I…we are that kind of folk.
life expectancy in 1955 for a baby born with CF was 5 years old. By the 60’s
that figure was moved up to under10 years of age. By 1981 the figure had reached
the age of 20 and in 1985 life expectancy reached 25 years of age. In 2004 life
expectancy reached the mid-30’s.
research has changed this dramatically.Advances
are made every year and I have been watching these events unfold in a highly
personal way. I have a young friend with CF. His name is Zen. I saw him at
parties and being a kid person I watched his exuberance with a smile. He is
funny and sweet like any child. His eyes light up when he is getting away with
something. He now has a little brother that he dotes on at family functions. One
of my favorite memories of him at these parties was when we were at a small
park in Santa Cruz.
He endlessly road around a small blacktop area on a little bike….around and
around…his face beaming.
I had known him
for over a year without realizing he had Cystic Fibrosis since his family is so
upbeat and fun. They focus on the positive so much that no one had mentioned it
I wondered if his
father had to hit his chest with cupped hands to loosen the phlegm in his
chest….and I wondered how long he would live. Thanks to advances in research
and innovation Zen wears a little vibrating vest that accomplishes some of what
the thumpings had done to loosen it…and my son said Zen watches TV while he
wears it before bed. I am afraid to ask if they still need to repeatedly hit
his chest to give him optimum chances to survive the night. I do know that his
parents are the best they can be to him so whatever they are doing it is going to
make sure Zen stays Zen.
They have a walk
that they seem to be key components of and I was only too glad to walk for Zen.
If money is what has caused these advances in life expectancy then I am on
board. I have several T Shirts with the label ZenWalkers that I had been
wearing as night shirts.
I have a job this
year that sometimes matches donations to charities like this that I can go to
and beg for funds. It has to be local though. So my Zen family set up a team
for me in TuolumneCounty. Our walk in TuolumneCounty
was done before I moved back home though back in April…actually the local CF
walk was done while I was in Wales
with my Miss Kimberley.
I guess the bottom
line is that I am asking for walkers to join my team and for donations to help
increase the life span of Zen and all those like him. Right now it is 37 years.
It is only in a few days away so my goals will be small…but if I can make even
a couple of hundred dollars it really can make a big difference.
I will be
walking the SonoraHigh School track on
September 15, 2012. I will be walking 2 miles starting at 9 am. I might be
alone but I will be in spirit walking with any who are willing to donate via
the CF Foundations website.I gladly
welcome your well wishes and company if you can.
It has been
months since I posted last on my blog. I wrote many essays since that I cannot
post since there is much that is being saved for my book. I can say from this
point that I am at now…life has taken so many significant twists and turns I
have no idea where to start.
Tonight on my
drive home I burst into tears as I drove up to “my home.” I was borrowing my
good friend Mike’s truck and wearing what I lovingly call my Monkey Suit.
I am employed at a job at a grocery
store and back in my real “home” of TuolumneCounty. I have not been
back here to live for 4 years and it feels like it has been a lifetime. My
Monkey Suit is my uniform as a “checker” and actually brings me much security
as I don the silly thing. I have spent over $150 on the clothes for my suit and
I make a point of ironing and washing my pants and shirts often, wanting to
show the same love and care for this job as I would if I was working in an
embassy or for an international organization which are my “Dream Jobs” at this
point. I wear a white collar shirt and colorful scarf, or tie as well as black
pants and an apron.
I love people and love the job…the co-workers
are good fun people and the customers are simply wonderful. I look forward to
almost each and every interaction I am fortunate enough to experience in that
I also am amazed
at how gleeful my home life is at the present. I showed up, literally homeless,
jobless and feeling for all the world like the biggest loser at my friends’ home.
I had only called them a few hours before. Of the two places I really wanted to
crash and land, they were the ones who answered the phone.
By the time I
showed up at their house after having tracked my poor old car all over Northern
California, it had gotten rather worn looking and could not take speeds over 55
mph without drastically quaking and proving its intense need for a wheel
alignment. I knew I was going to have to simply give up and trust when I heard
my tire pop on the last couple of miles of the drive to their home.
I drove it on a
flat tire until I reached gravel, locked up the car, (a silly thing to do in
the outback of the countryside!) and grabbed my suitcase to yet again drag it
to my latest destination. This had become the drill anyway for both my son and
I and this particular case was not more difficult from all the rest of my
travels. Spencer and I had taken to calling ourselves “turtles” since we had
gotten so accustomed to carrying all of our clothes and belongings around in
our bags almost all the time. I could not drag my bag on this road as I had
done in Rome, Florence,
Heathrow, Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, Munich, Porth, Wales
and San Francisco
since this road was dirt and rock. I realized as I lugged the suitcase that I
had grown very strong on our travels and it was a piece of cake to carry it up
the steep hill to Ann and Mike’s house.
greeted me with open arms and obvious trust that I was not the biggest failure
in the world. They instead saw me as a capable world traveler like my friends
in Italy or family in Wales seemed to
see me. They instantly made me feel welcome and asked me to consider staying.
I cried myself
to sleep in their cavernous upstairs, which already had a bed made up in it.
I should give a bit of background
information. I am not the sort of person with lots of friendships. I have many
people that I love who are unaware of my affections and many acquaintances that
I value deeply. But those that I love are people I trust with all my heart and
soul. Ann and Mike have always been in the “love” category. Ann always has
gotten me since we first met. We instantly understood one another. She is a
calm and beautiful version of Anne of Green Gables. She is a better housewife
and better at keeping her priorities in order but never makes anyone feel even
the slightest bit of intimidation about her abilities. Instead she nurtures all
around her and reminds me of a Snow White where all in her presence grow.
Mike, her husband, has been amazingly like a
brother. I can dress and be as schlocky and stupid as I desire around him and I
feel comfortable. We have matching senses of humor, matching high blood
pressure issues and matching attitudes about life in general. I have this
desire to torture him and irritate him but also I understand him completely
since he seems like me only the grownup and masculine version……or I guess he
could be what I would be if I applied myself more…I find both of them to be
role models as well as buddies. Their son, Lars, is a person I find myself
learning from and admiring as well. He holds himself at healthy distance from
bitterness as life swirls around him. I
need to learn to do just that.
Tonight on the
way back home from a shift as a supermarket checker, I found a deep and
profound joy fill my heart. The countryside I drove through and fields with
livestock looked much the same as it did in 1979 when I was learning to drive
on these roads so long ago. I was carefully negotiating the curves and twists
in a borrowed truck as the music combined with the setting sunlight to make the
home I was heading towards stand out on the hill. A conversation with a beloved
friend from the morning drifted through my mind making me smile...Sandy always has that
effect on me…and I was happy to know who was at home waiting for me to return.
Two dogs rushed out to greet me as I drove up wearing my Monkey Suit.
No wonder I
felt so happy and emotional. I was “home” for the first time in so, so long.