2 Peas In An ADHD Pod

The problem, the pediatrician said to me, is that we have to rely on ADHD parents to help their ADHD child.  Oh.

I just stared at the doctor.  I almost said “Can we rely on someone else?”  But instead I said “I can’t find my wallet.”

My son and I have so much in common.  We like the same books, have the same sense of humor, like almost all the same shows, have the same taste in music.  And we both have ADHD.  We “get” each other.

Don’t worry….this is not going to be what my husband calls “psychobabble.”

Attention Deficit issues are manifested differently in boys and girls, plus everybody is different anyway.  It didn’t occur to me that we both had a…… condition? issues? lovable personality quirks?…..until that pediatric appointment.

I definitely have the attention span of a gnat and I’ve written about it here before.  But so does my son.  And this inherited streak weaves in and out of our relationship in marvelous ways.

When Steve was in 4th grade, he had a teacher who was humor deprived somewhat serious for an elementary school teacher.  One day she called me up, and was very irate, to tell me that my son had gotten up in the middle of class and conducted a survey.  He walked up to each student and asked them their middle names and checked to see how many of their middle names corresponded with his cousins’ first names. When his teacher told me the story, I burst out laughing.  angry-teacher-meme

I know, I know, wrong reaction.  I’m a teacher, for heaven’s sake.  I quickly agreed with her that no it really wasn’t funny and that I shouldn’t have laughed. I commiserated with her that it must have been very disruptive and annoying, but secretly I did think it was funny.  Yet it was also a big clue that he was having trouble focusing.

When he was in 6th grade, I happily went to back-to-school night.  I knew my son liked school, had friends, I knew how smart he is although his grades didn’t always reflect that (visions of the 4th grade survey still darted around in my head).  The homeroom teacher greeted us at the classroom door and efficiently handed each parent a short stack of papers, with the PTA sign-up form on top.  We could sit anywhere, so I sat next to the mother of one of his classmates with whom I was friendly.  We started chatting and the teacher said to me “Excuse me, but we need to get started now.”  My first thought was please, God, make sure I never sound like that.  I quickly squelched it and realized that everyone was filling out the PTA form.

Glancing at my little pile of papers, I saw that the PTA form had disappeared.  I looked through the papers, looked under the desk, around the desk, not being aware that the teacher was speaking.  Then I turned to the parents seated around me and asked them if they had seen my PTA form.  The teacher stopped talking.  That’s when I realized that there was complete silence in the room.  His teacher said to me “Are you Stephen’s mom?”

This night was not over, however.  Just in case any of you are worrying on my behalf, she coughed up another form and I did successfully join the PTA.  We heard about all the classes, art and music periods, class rules, etc. Then we wrote cute little letters to our kids. Their desks had their names on them and they had left their parents a cute something and left it in their desks for us.

Good God.

His looked like a bomb went off inside it.  Papers shoved in there, food, crumpled I-don’t-know-whats.  I looked around and everyone else had perfect little Stepford Wives desks.  I shoveled through it all and found his letter and left mine for him.  if-a-cluttered-desk-einstein-meme

We are now taking a short break so all of my co-workers can spit their coffee out while reading this because my desk at work is a nightmare both inside and out.


Steve and I are Little Einsteins.


Because where there is a will, there is a way, I learned some tricks to help Steve, which also helped me.  I labeled bureau drawers, I put a small basket on the kitchen windowsill and 20 years later I still automatically put my keys there as soon as I walk into the house. At the doctor’s suggestion, I put a big basket right by the door so my son could empty out his book bag immediately.  You’d be surprised how many forms and notices schools send home once you get to actually see them.  It’s much easier today with everything online.

It’s very frustrating to constantly lose things, forget things, miss things and it is exceptionally irritating to family members.  As my oldest daughter said one time at a trip to the mall when I couldn’t remember where I had parked the car, “I feel like the staff member when I’m out with you guys!”

While we have the normal periodic annoyances that are present in any mother/son relationship, Steve and I always have patience with the ADHD part of each other’s personalities.  We help each other remember things, find things, and can laugh with and at each other.


Because we’re 2 peas in a pod.

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The F-Word Dinner

I don’t know why I write.  Isn’t that crazy?  To spend so much energy doing something and not to know why.  Why does anyone write?  To be clear, I don’t have to write.  My job doesn’t depend on it.  I don’t get paid to do it.

There is a direct correlation between reading and writing and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  And I’m a prolific reader.  Which is how the story of the F-word dinner begins.

When I was little, like little little, I wanted to read.  I was blessed with two parents who were always reading, so I was surrounded by words.  When I turned 4 years old, I wanted to learn how to read.  I learned to recognize the words “yes” and “no.”  SO EXCITING.  I would pore through books and pick those two words out.

Finally, first grade arrived.  Which was a rather harrowing experience for me.  But the first day of first grade I climbed up the steps of the school bus,  excited because I was going to read.

My mother told me, although I don’t remember this, that when she anxiously met the bus in the afternoon I was crying hysterically.  Heaven knows what she thought happened.  She said that in between gulps and sobs, I told her I didn’t learn how to read. That everyone lied to me.  I was told I would go to school and learn how to read.  And I didn’t.

Literal much?

But I quickly learned and read and read and read.  In second grade I was looking at the New York Times and asked my mother who Crushchief was.  She looked at the paper and said oh his name is Khrushchev. And tried to explain to 7-year-old me why his name was in big letters in the newspaper.

I’m not bragging about how good of a reader I was and still am.  It’s just my one really good skill.  I was the last one picked for a team in gym.  Every. Single. Time.  I know my strength is not in athletics.

Here’s a good example.  First grade in 1959 was not like it is now.  We had snack time with milk and graham crackers or animal crackers.  Then naptime on blue mats that were stacked in the corner of the classroom.  The other kids closed their eyes and drifted away…..or would have except I couldn’t shut up.  I wasn’t tired, I’m not good at resting and I love to talk.

Finally, without knowing this would be the Crime-Of-The-Century in my house, I was sent to the principal.  I vividly remember sitting in the chair in front of him and swinging my feet because they didn’t reach the floor.  He asked me why I wouldn’t stop talking.  Well that was an easy question.  Because I always want to talk.  Then he asked me what I wanted to do because I wasn’t allowed to talk and I didn’t want to nap. Another easy question.


So every day at naptime I dragged my chair and book to the hallway and happily read until I was told I could return to class.

I wasn’t allowed to read Nancy Drew books until 2nd grade.  Maybe my mother should have held off another year or two.  I’m still almost certain that there is someone hiding under my bed and in the attic with a secret clock.

Reading was my escape, provided my adventures, held problems at bay.  Reading held the mystery and then surprise of new words and the ability to try out these new words.

Which brings me to the F-word dinner.

Walking home from the bus stop one afternoon in 2nd grade, I stopped at this little bridge where the road went over a tiny stream, because someone had painted a big word on the side of the bridge.  Painted in blue.  A new word.  An unknown word.  I practiced it over and over.  I had no clue what it meant.

And in the middle of dinner, as my brother was lifting his fork to his mouth, I said FUCK.

The fork dropped.

Total silence. I looked around the room smiling……until…….I realized……..uh oh.

emoji shock and dread

One of my parents yelled “WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT” and then yelled at my 14-year-old brother “DID YOU TEACH HER THAT?”  As he was looking at me horrified and saying he swore he didn’t teach me that, I was flabbergasted.  Little Miss Literal.

“Why do you think someone taught me that?  Why do you think I heard it?  I read it!”

And there you have it.  The F-Word Dinner.

This is why I’m compelled to write.


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October 13, 1917 Fátima, Portugal

Jacinta and Francisco Martos and Lucia dos Santos

Jacinta and Francisco Martos and Lucia dos Santos

In 1916, 100 years ago, 3 small shepherd children in the tiny town of Aljustrel, Portugal had the job of taking care of the sheep for their poor families.  Aljustrel, a half-mile from Fátima, was a rural community set in the Serra de Estrela mountain chain.  This land was barren and difficult to farm.

One day, these peasant children, 9-year-old Lucia dos Santos and her young cousins, 8-year-old Francisco Martos and his sister 7-year-old Jacinta Martos were playing while tending the sheep.

Suddenly, in front of the three shepherd children stood a shining young man of about fourteen or fifteen.   He was, according to Lucia, incredibly handsome and ‘more brilliant than a crystal, penetrated by the rays of the sun.’  He calmed the children and told them he was the ‘Angel of Peace.’  (Those Who Saw Her, Catherine M. Odell, Our Sunday Visitor, 2010, p. 138)


This vision, this Angel of Peace, taught the children how to pray and about the importance of prayer.  He visited the little children two more times in the summer and fall of 1916.

Then, on May 13, 1917, as the children were guiding the sheep to graze, there appeared a vision of a beautiful woman hovering over a nearby tree.  The children described her as glowing with light and were scared.  Lucia, the eldest, asked her where she was from and she said that she was from Heaven.  The children reported feeling filled with God and the woman asked them if they were willing to suffer and pray for the reparation of sins and for the conversion of sinners.  They eagerly said yes.  She told them that she wanted them to return to the same place at noon, on the 13th of the month for the next 6 months. rosary-beadsDuring one of these visits, she told them that she was the Lady of the Rosary and that they were to continue saying the Rosary and pray for peace and for the consecration of Russia.

What I know about this is a drop in the bucket.  I have always been fascinated with the appearance of Our Lady in Fatima and very recently was moved by the desire to learn more. What I have written above is the barest of skeletons about these apparitions and I implore you to read about it yourselves.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that much of the veracity of these visions is due to the fact that these were illiterate, peasant children with almost no knowledge of the world outside of their tiny village.  They had never heard of Russia, and the idea of the need for the consecration of Russia would have no meaning for them.

The children learned three “secrets.”  The first being a terrible vision of Hell that petrified them.  In the book “A Woman Clothed With The Sun,” edited by John J. Delaney and published by Image Books/Doubleday, pages 163-164, Lucia’s description of the first two secrets are…

“You have seen Hell,” she explained to them “where the souls of sinners go.  To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart.  If people do as I shall ask, many souls will be converted and there will be peace.  This war is going to end, but if people do not cease offending God, not much time will elapse and during the pontificate of Pius XI another and more terrible war will begin.

To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays.  If my requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace.  If not, she will spread her errors throughout the entire world, provoking wars and persecution of the church.  But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.  The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and it will be converted and some time of peace will be granted to humanity.”


Photo from CNN

Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t believe that it is possible for the shepherd children living in an isolated village to have had any prior knowledge of the events to which these secrets referred.  But they certainly understood to pray the Rosary for peace in the world. Both Francesco and Jacinta died in peaceful prayer during the flu pandemic of 1918.  Lucia revealed these secrets in 1927.  The third secret was sealed and not to be made known until 1960, although the Bishop with whom this was entrusted, chose not to make it known at that time.

Then the unthinkable happened.  On May 13, 1981, 64 years to the day that the Lady first appeared to the three shepherd children, Pope John Paul II was shot.  He credits Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life that day, and had the bullet that was removed from his stomach placed in the crown of the statue of Our Lady in the shrine at Fátima, Portugal.

On May 13, 2000, Pope John Paul II met with Lucia dos Santos, a 93-year-old Carmelite nun and afterwards revealed the third secret told to the little children 83 years earlier.

Pope John Paul II, right, talks to Sister Santa Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart, Saturday, May 13, 2000 in Fatima, Portugal. Pope John Paul II is on a 24-hours visit to beatify two of the shepherds children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them and their cousin Lucia in 1917. Lucia Dos Santos, aged 93, who took the name of Sister Santa Maria Lucia since she cloistered in a Portuguese Carmelite convent in 1929, received communion from the Pope along with children dressed as shepherds. The shepherd children died of pneumonia two years after the visions, at the ages of 9 and 11. (AP Photo/Arturo Mari, Pool)

Pope John Paul II, right, talks to Sister Santa Maria Lucia of the Immaculate Heart, Saturday, May 13, 2000 in Fatima, Portugal. Pope John Paul II is on a 24-hours visit to beatify two of the shepherds children who said the Virgin Mary appeared to them and their cousin Lucia in 1917. Lucia Dos Santos, aged 93, who took the name of Sister Santa Maria Lucia since she cloistered in a Portuguese Carmelite convent in 1929, received communion from the Pope along with children dressed as shepherds. The shepherd children died of pneumonia two years after the visions, at the ages of 9 and 11. (AP Photo/Arturo Mari, Pool)

This picture accompanied an article in the New York Times International on May 14, 2000, “Vatican Discloses ‘Third Secret’ of Fatima”.

Pope John Paul II believed that he was the man clothed in white who was making his way to the cross and was going to be shot by bullets.

As I write this, tomorrow will be the 99th anniversary of the last visitation to young Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta near Fátima, Portugal.

I don’t know what the implications are for us.  As prophesied, World War II occurred and then we entered the Cold War when many countries were threatened by Russia.  Pope Pius XII in 1942, and again in 1952 and then Pope John Paul II in 1984, consecrated the world and Russia to the Immaculate Heart.

When I was a child during the Cold War, we were told to say the Rosary daily as that was the message given to us by Our Lady at Fatima.  We were to continually pray to God and pray the Rosary for peace.

The fall of communism in Russia was ceremonially observed on December 25, 1991, a day on which the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated.

But today, we find Russia at the center of our political campaign to elect the President of the United States of America.  On this 99th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary, heeding the messages given to the 3 humble children on October 13, 1917, seems as timely as ever.


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Beware the Viking Cometh, or the adventures of a hat.

As it was 36 F this morning, I brought out my viking hat. This is a good time to share my post from last December. After being in the closet for 6 months, who knows what this hat will get up to this winter. Brace yourselves…


The first hint that our household was about to be turned upside-down was seeing this visage one night when I awoke.  All had changed.  The Viking Cometh.

beward the viking cometh

What I didn’t realize at the time is that a hat had invaded my life and glommed onto me. There was something mystical yet annoying about this hat.  It did odd things and in odd ways.

Like the time it went missing.

I searched and searched for the hat.  I mean, seriously, who knows what a Viking hat on the loose might actually do?  And then there it was.  Sitting on top of our pink crystal light. Some mystical flashback to the Vikings sailing under the Aurora Borealis?

viking hat on crystal lampLook at this.  It’s acting like it belongs right on top of that lamp.  Of course, our house could have burned down.  The trickster.

But the mystical tricks were just starting.  Can you imagine?  It tried…

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Once Upon An Alcoholic

On October 5, God willing, I will have been sober for 31 years.  That’s just about half of my lifetime.  And what a journey it has been.

People get sober for various reasons.  I remember going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and standing near an open window sipping a cup of coffee.  There was a commotion at the window and in tumbled a man.  As I happened to be the closest person, he staggered a couple of feet to me, grabbed my arm for stability and said “my wife told me to get in here or I can’t come home.”  At least that’s what I thought he said. It was garbled. I in turn signaled a man near me and said “he’s yours.”  It’s encouraged to have a man help a man and a woman help a woman from the get-go.  omg-i-need-help-gif

I should mention that the window was about 4 feet from the door and had bushes in front of it, so it’s a statement about how drunk he was that he missed the door.  He has been sober ever since.

A lot of people have horrible, yet funny from an insider’s point of view, stories about how they knew, or were pushed, to get help.

One of the first lessons one learns is that no one is unique.  Our stories might have different twists and turns, but our lives have spun out of control from alcohol, drugs, or a combination.

But how many people get sober when their family is against that?  I had the opposite experience from the man who fell in the window.  I felt like the first person in the history of mankind whose family tried to stop them from getting sober.  For real.dont-get-sober

I didn’t think I knew anyone who didn’t drink a lot. In my family, people were categorized as drinkers (normal people) and non-drinkers (odd people). “They seem nice enough, but they aren’t drinkers.”

When I started going to AA meetings, I hid it from my family.  So that my ex-husband didn’t catch on, I went during the day when my kids were in school and/or got a babysitter.  I told my children I was going shopping so their father wouldn’t know.  Can you imagine?  The craziness of the disease.

My first Thanksgiving in sobriety was at my father’s house.  By then everyone knew and I had to listen to comments like “you don’t drink that much, everyone drinks” and “what if people find out.”  At my place setting, instead of the glass of wine I would have had in the past, there were two glasses of wine.  I threw them out and my father was mad that I wasted the wine. Welcome to the Twilight Zone.


But back to what brought me to AA.  The signs were there.  I started drinking in 7th or 8th grade, by sneaking whiskey into my coca-cola.  I’m writing that out so as not to confuse people by saying coke. That should have been clue #1, but it was so normal in my house that I thought it was normal behavior in everyone’s home.

Then drinking “for real” in high school.  Then almost out of control in college.

Funny story that shouldn’t have been funny but I still think it is: I went out drinking with a friend of mine from my sorority the night before a midterm.  College midterms are a very big deal.  We got an hour or two of sleep and went to take the midterm.  I can’t remember how many students were there, but it was a fair number and my friend and I sat on opposite sides of the room.  Each question seemed funny and it was one of those times where you know you can’t laugh, your shoulders start to shake, and then laughter explodes from your mouth.  Which made her laugh on the other side of the room.  

I was still drunk.  Clue # 2.

I went to Ohio Wesleyan University which was at the time, and maybe still is, in a “dry” county.  Appalling.  My parents felt sorry for me.  About the second week of school, my roommate and I got each got a care package from home.  Yay!!  She excitedly opened her large tin of homemade cookies.  I excitedly opened my case of pint-size bottles of Seagrams 7.seagrams-7-pint

Clue #3.  On my 21st birthday, a bunch of us went into New York City to celebrate.  At the time, the drinking age in NY was 18, but 21 is a banner year.  My maiden name is Harvey, so even though I was only used to drinking whiskey straight (ice cubes are for sissies), I had a bunch of harvey wallbangers.  Little girl drinks.  I remember standing up from the table, and getting about half-way up and then nothing.  I “came to” the next day in Rockland County with no idea how we got there.  Lots of people that night must have had angels looking out for them.  I know that I did.

Side note: I had blacked out before.  I didn’t know at the time that is due to alcohol poisoning.  Tell your friends.

Clue #4.  When I married and was blessed with my first daughter, I wanted to be the best mother I could be.  So I planned my day and her day around my drinking.  Baths in the morning, not at night.  Waaaaay less drinking (and none during pregnancy).  I thought that made me a good mother.

Clue #5.  My second daughter died on Christmas Eve, 1981.  I had not drunk during the pregnancy at all.  She was one day old and died of cardiac arrest during open heart surgery.  My addiction exploded.  Heavy morphine in the hospital and whiskey that my ex-husband brought into the hospital.  No drugs upon release, nor again, but my drinking certainly increased but did not stop the pain.

Clue #6.  I’m skipping a lot here but want to lighten it up.  Not all of my story is icky.

One Sunday morning, all of the above and all that I’ve left out brought me to the point where I realized that I needed help.  1985 was back in the day.  I had to look up the AA Hotline number.  The deal was that you called, and the hotline people had someone call you right back.  im-scared

For whatever reason, I opened my wallet and the AA Hotline number fell out.  In my handwriting.  I must have looked it up and written it down in a blackout.  With my heart racing I harnessed every ounce of courage I had and called the number.  A man answered and said he would have a woman call me right back.  He sounded kind, happy and serene.

When the woman called me back, she asked me if I had any liquor in the house.  Duh. She told me to put the phone down and empty it all down the sink.  Was she crazy? I screamed at her I’M NOT A DRUNK.  And then realized that I was the one who was acting crazy.

She told me that it was just for today.  That the next day I could buy as much as I wanted.  Just not that day.  So I did.  I couldn’t do it for myself; I did it for my children. And that was the last time I had to pour liquor down the drain and the first day that I didn’t drink.


When I was sober for 8 years, my son was 6 years old.  At the dinner table I said to my kids that I hadn’t had a drink in 8 years.  He turned to me and said “Aren’t you thirsty???”

October 5, 1985.  Thank you, God.

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Who Needs Badges When You Have A Beanie?

brownie-scout-beanie-1960sScouting was a tradition in our family.  My brothers were Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.  I was a Brownie Scout and Girl Scout.  My daughters were Daisy Scouts and Brownie Scouts.

Which was surprising since I hated it.

A dream of mine was that my mother would be more involved in my life.  Or, as that adult phrase translated into a 7 year old’s vocabulary, that she would like me more.  So I was SO excited that she was going to be our brownie troop leader.


Photo credit Holly Bierregaard

Photo credit Holly Bierregaard

I have gratefully rekindled friendships and acquaintances from my past, including Holly Bierregaard (2nd from the left) whom I thank for the use of her picture, and author Patty Dann (far right) whose latest book “The Butterfly Hours” has improved my writing immensely.  

Holly maintains that since this photo was off center, I probably took this picture.  


It took about 5 minutes to realize that the pride and excitement that I had that my mother was the leader was actually acutely stressful.

One of the many cues to my parents that I couldn’t/can’t focus easily was my inability to earn a badge.  As soon as I got the handbook, I started to earn every single badge in the book.  Literally.  Everyone could find one step that they could do.  Badge X, Step 3 “Run up and down the stairs twice.”  I totally made that up, but it was the kind of thing I could do to earn that badge.  But I couldn’t do any of the other steps.

brownie-badge-1960sLuckily, just by existing in the troop, I earned this one.

It quickly occurred to me that I was the Queen of staying indoors and reading, and the worst kid in the entire world at anything else except knitting.  My mother had to correct me every step of the way.  In front of all of my classmates.

The height of embarrassment was embroidering a flower, something that I should have been good at, carefully, and accidentally, onto my uniform.  We all lifted up our flower designs, and my uniform came with it.  People laughed.  My mother was annoyed.  I wanted to disappear while earning a badge for sewing flowers onto one’s uniform.brownie-badge-1960s-making-a-t


I could definitely have earned this one.  “Standing Like the Letter T.”



But there were two awesome parts of scouting.  Every former scout knows what I’m about to say.  Marching in the Memorial Day Parade and Girl Scout Cookies.

“On my honor, I will try:
To do my duty to God and my country,
To help other people at all times,
To obey the Girl Scout Laws.”

I was so proud to march down King Street in Chappaqua, NY with that promise in my heart and the American flags waving.  That is actually a pretty powerful promise.  I haven’t thought of it in years, but it bears contemplation.

The crème de la crème of Girl Scouts are the cookies.  Selling?  Now that’s something I’m good at.  Besides running around the neighborhood with my beanie tied to my dog Bluey’s head, my father took the order sheet to work.  He was a professor of aeronautic science at Manhattan College and, as a Colonel in the USAF, the highest ranking person there.  So it was no surprise that he got a kazillion cookie orders.

cookie-box-showing-silhoutte-of-scout-prayingThis box was introduced in 1968.  Can you imagine if the silhouette of the scout praying was printed on the boxes now?

I won the most-boxes-sold award for our troop and my prize was a sock monkey. Hmmmm, a mother as leader as a father as biggest order donor?  I’m sure my friends thought it was rigged.

While I continued to be in scouts, and continued to be the greatest indoors person ever, my parents decided Girl Scout Camp was for me.  I lived in one of the wealthiest suburbs of New York City, had a maid, didn’t know how to swim, was scared of the dark and petrified of bugs.  I guess my parents decided I needed to toughen up.


If a badge was given for being petrified, I’d have earned it hands down.

I cried my way through my two weeks at Rock Hill Camp writing daily WHY DO YOU HATE ME letters to my parents.  My very first chore there was latrine duty.  I wasn’t even good at cleaning the toilet at home.  Which I started to yearn to do.

Miserable and exhausted by dinnertime,  I was unaware of the clean-your-plate rule.  I put a small amount of food on my plate but couldn’t eat it all.  We weren’t allowed to leave the dining table (mess hall style) until all was consumed.  Eventually, after gagging on the extra pats of butter on my plate, they let me go.

I survived, actually liked canoeing, never learned to swim, hated latrines, was still scared of bugs and things that made noise in the night, but loved the campfires.  And earned zero badges.

But who needs badges when you have a beanie.




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Surviving With LOST

A few years ago I had shoulder surgery.  Totally painful.  Complete with instructions like sleep upright for the first 30 days.  I was beside myself.  The pain medication worked the opposite on me (I barely slept) so the first week was particularly difficult.

Until my son came up from Manhattan to spend the weekend with me and introduced me to LOST.


Photo credit Huffington Post

My son was a member of that large number of people, like 10-15 million US viewers each season, who were obsessed with LOST.  I may have been the only person in my country not to have seen even one episode.  Airing from 2004-2010,  LOST offered a combination of the supernatural, adventure/romance/betrayal and science fiction. Definitely a winning combination.

How was I left out of that loop?  That’s an easy one to answer.  I just couldn’t, in those days, nor in today’s culture of Netflix and Hulu, sit down and watch a weekly show on the nights it aired.

But my son had the entire series on DVD.

He watched the pilot episode with me and I was hooked.  It kept me away from my pain and thrust me into the characters’ pain, joy, love and fear.

Then I understood the obsession. Especially since obsession is my default mode.  And I understand why, when I would periodically call my friend, she would practically yell into the phone “LOST IS ON I CAN’T TALK.”

And what’s not to like about the series?  That’s why I’m watching it a second time on Netflix.

So on all of those nights when I couldn’t sleep, and during all of the days that I hurt, I plowed through the 6 years of the series.


I could forget all about the pain and get lost in LOST.

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Poverty, Affluence And Technology In Schools

Technology is awesome in so many ways.  It has revolutionized teaching.  But has increased the divide between the haves and have nots.

I grew up in a very wealthy suburb of New York City.  We were one of the haves.  I was spoiled financially.  Adolescence is hard for many kids.  My home life was nightmarish. But on my 16th birthday I got my own phone line and a Volkswagen Beetle.  I was a have.

In school, I needed notebooks, pens, pencils and a Spanish/English dictionary.

Now, kids need notebooks, pens, pencils, graphing calculators and Chromebooks or iPads.  And in most cases, the schools don’t provide them.

The district in which I teach is on the forefront of technology, and on the forefront of getting kids what they need.  But while chipping away at it, the socio-economic divide continues.  And the expectations of teachers, including me, contribute to that.  I have learned to build in provisions where my students can either give me the work on paper, or if they prefer, spend a couple of minutes in class transferring their homework to the computers.  Our district provides the desktops or Chromebooks for class work.

Many of my students, who are almost all immigrants, live in a room that their families rent in small apartments. These are probably in illegal apartments and they don’t even know that.  There may be 5 people living in a room that is separated from the rest of the apartment with a curtain, and sharing a kitchen with others. Electricity may be sporadic. The kids get free breakfast and lunch at the school which helps the families, but they may have only a couple of outfits that they alternate hoping that the other teens don’t notice.

Many teachers at our school quietly get the students new clothes. We occasionally get them a gift certificate for a local clothing store.  We have easy access for food pantries. But they aren’t wearing North Face and the newest Nike’s like the more affluent students.  They feel different.  And less than. They are the have nots.

These students all work, helping their families and paying for the things that are normal for teenagers now to have, like cell phones.  But many don’t have wifi.

This is true in our town and across our country, not just within the immigrant population, but with white and black families alike.  I’m not going to quote them, but the statistics are there.

In my classroom, almost everything is done on Google.  I use Google Communities, homework is done on Drive, the students and their parents can communicate with me at any hour on Google Hangout.  My students are learning user-end 21st Century Technology skills.

But many of them don’t have wifi available to them outside of school.

They are living in a room in someone else’s apartment.  They are working one or two jobs.  They are being teenagers and partying and worrying about love.  They are trying to fit into the school community.

And while doing all of this, they have to add something that the middle class and upper middle class don’t have to worry about.  Taking that extra time and effort to find wifi.

Obviously, there is the public library.  And our school stays open late a few days a week for community access.  And we have desktops and Chromebooks galore available for our students of all ages.  In the elementary schools, they can take them home with them.

But not all schools in our area are like that.  And not many schools in our country are so proactive or so accommodating.

It kills me.  It tears at my heart.

When one of my grandsons was in 4th grade, he and his classmates all needed to have an iPad to bring to school.  The couple of kids who couldn’t afford them, and they were usually immigrant kids, used the desktops in the classroom.  Like the other kids wouldn’t notice.

The added expense of an iPad would have affected my daughter’s budget, although not drastically, so my husband and I got the iPad.  But I couldn’t believe that it was a requirement at that school.  Unless you lived in abject poverty.  Now he is in a different district that requires all students to have Chromebooks.  Except the ones that can’t afford a Chromebook can use the ones at school.  But they only have one or two chrome carts in the school.  We are buying our grandson a Chromebook today.

The work must be in on time.  As a 6th grader he must read the emails from the teacher. He must work on his blog and submit it on time.  He will be able to do that, because his family can afford to buy him a Chromebook.

There is an attitude in parts of our society, that the students who live in poverty can just go to a library, that they can just go to a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, where to buy a coffee and bagel is an expense they can’t afford, but that they should sit there and use the wifi provided for free.

Oh that’s right, they can’t.  They are working to help provide for their families. The have nots.

While the haves of this country are on traveling sports teams after school and on weekends, going to museums, aquariums and on vacations, perhaps to other countries, other teens are working, and having another summer that adds to the cultural divide. The haves write about their summers on their laptops, iPads and Chromebooks at home.  Writing about experiences that the have nots, well, have not had.  The affluent teens write using their expensive smart phones, not thinking twice, just as I didn’t during my own adolescence, that not everyone has equal access.

We use technology that can, and is, revolutionizing education.  But that also places more of a burden on those who are the working poor.

We use the technology that increases the divide between the haves and have nots.



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Blame Everything On My Kidneys

You know how people say things like “I blame it on my mother; she always makes me late.” Or “I blame myself; I should have known better.” Or,

Blame it on the weather.eddard-stark-blame-meme

Blame it on the full moon.

If it weren’t for the kids…..


I blame it on my kidneys.  Wait, what?  It’s true.  It’s my new thing.  I blame everything on my kidneys.  I’m saying this light-heartedly, but it’s my new saying.  I blame everything on my kidneys.

Last spring I had icky things going on physically that no one needs to, and you absolutely wouldn’t want to, know the details.  My doctors were ruling out cancer, and that didn’t look so good for a while.  My problem wasn’t getting better and it was emotionally and physically debilitating.

So, lucky me, I had surgery in early June to see what’s what with my kidneys.  The idea was to fix anything they could see that needed fixing, if possible, and to biopsy anything handy for biopsy.

I’m making light of this but I was really scared and my family was freaking out.

I came out of surgery and when I woke up my husband said “You have 3 kidneys.”  I said “Shut up.”  But he was serious.  I have 3 kidneys.  For real.

The doctor came in and my mother spoke out of my mouth. “I never heard of such a thing.”  What is this, the 1950’s?  So I cleared my throat and said, “this isn’t a joke, right?” The doctor assured me that I had 3 kidneys and gave me a DVD.

I clutched the DVD until they helped me get dressed and leave.

How exciting to have a DVD of 3 kidneys!!  It looks like the moon with a dog walking on it.  But not like that one.full-moon-with-howling-wolf

My husband told me I probably was given the DVD so when I went to a specialist I had something to give him.  Oh.

This bizarre thing, upon which I blame everything possible, is an extra, fully functioning kidney.  But before you get excited about donating possibilities, boys and girls, my kidneys are too big, are fused, and twisted.  Ewwwwww.

I no longer have any problems, but I’m keeping a close eye on kidney stuff.

“Hey Barb, do you want to go to the movies?”  “Um, I don’t know……I have these 3 kidneys…”

“Do you want to chaperone an event at school?”  “Oh wow! But, unfortunately I have 3 kidneys.”

I can hear my mother now. “You should have known better than to have 3 kidneys.”

Forget the full moon, the influence of your grandfather, the heat, the way you were raised, the if-onlys…..just do what I do.

I blame everything on my kidneys.



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The Gravestone Whisperer

Barb at Stephen Rowe Bradley houseBoth my husband and I are working on our respective genealogies.  With a vengeance. He is a Son of the American Revolution and a Mayflower Descendant.  I’m a Daughter of the American Revolution wannabe (paperwork done just not submitted it yet).  And my family missed the Mayflower by about 5-10 years.  Oh well.

What is the lure of genealogy?  It certainly has grabbed many people and they haven’t wanted to let go.  Perhaps it is the draw for stability in a world in which many people move around.  The days of raising your children in the house in which you were raised, and your parents before you and their parents before them are over for many families, at least in the area in which we live.

So we delve into our roots.  In a previous blog post, A Non-Morbid Cemetery Tour , I talked about how interesting this search is, and would be, on our vacation this summer.

Well, it was that and more.  My husband and I decided to go to New England for our vacation and while doing normal vacation things, to look up the towns where our ancestors lived, as well as where they are buried.

It turns out that I’m a gravestone whisperer.

The first cemetery we went to was to find the graves of Jonathan Dorr Bradley (1803-1862) and his wife Susan Mina Crossman (1811-1892).  They are buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro, Vermont.  If any relative I’ve never heard of is reading this, feel free to contact me.

We go to the cemetery and it starts to rain just as I am getting out of the car.  This is just a partial view of the cemetery.  I should have tried to take a picture of the whole thing, but would have had to be in the Space Station to get it all in one photo. Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating.  But it was BIG.  Like maybe 1,500-2,000 graves big.

brattleboro-prospecthill partial imageMy husband pulls up in front of this much-bigger-than-this-pic shows cemetery.  I told him to just give me a few minutes because you never know.  I imagined him sighing.  I take off in one direction, getting wet, and he steps out of the car in the other direction.

After 3 minutes tops, I yelled “Found Them.”  He couldn’t believe it.

The Gravestone Whisperer.

Susan Mina Crossman gravestone  susan mina crossman Sorry, Susan Mina Crossman Bradley, but you look pretty terrifying in this portrait.  I think I would rather be yelled at by my mother.

Jonathan Dorr Bradley gravestone jonathan dorr bradley Jonathan Dorr Bradley graduated from Yale and Yale Law School.  He has that lawyer look about him so I wouldn’t have wanted to be the grandchild that got in his way, either.  They are my grandparents X 4 generations.

Belfast Maine 1Then we traveled into Belfast, Maine to find relaxation and new experiences on the coast of Maine, as well as the graves of Simon Knowles and Lydia Fuller.  Simon Knowles, my husband’s grandfather X  some number of generations, was a Revolutionary War soldier. His wife, Lydia Fuller Knowles, was descended from Samuel Fuller, who came here on the Mayflower.

We had the address of the cemetery, put it in our GPS and it took us down a rural road. Then to a dirt road.  Then to a broken down bridge past where the GPS said we should be.  We looked at each other.  Then retraced our steps and sure enough, we had gone to the right street.  Lots of beautiful dense trees.  Nothing else.  More trees.

Cemetery in Belfast MaineAnd then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tombstone in the woods.  We parked and walked up into the woods a bit and saw a tiny cemetery with just a handful of graves.


There we found the resting place of Lydia Fuller Knowles and Simon Knowles.Lydia Fuller Knowles gravestone Simon Knowles gravestone

Found because I’m the Gravestone Whisperer.

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