Monthly Archives: July 2015

Guest Post by our Son in California (and me)


Recently, our 16yo daughter traveled out to California to visit her big brother, at his invitation. He shares a little about his experience here:

This is the last day of my sister’s stay in California (she flies out tomorrow morning at 7:30). She’s spent most of this week relaxing in a beach house 200 yards from the Pacific Ocean, watching Steven Universe and making s’mores, while back home my 19-year-old brother continues to work his way through addiction and recovery, which ends up being a higher priority than being a big brother.

At a conservative estimate, AJ has gone without a real big-brother figure for about 16 years, and without one at all for over 2 now, ever since I moved out. I have a little bit of insider knowledge on this subject: my girlfriend has been essentially abandoned by both older brothers for the past ten years.

I wasn’t really ready for how much I missed my sister. Even though I tried to play it cool (classic big brother stuff) I was beyond excited to see her, more than I’ve been in months. Suddenly everything seemed back to normal again, despite all the stress I’ve had in the last six months. It felt like it had been less than a day since I’d moved out.

As much as I might miss home, there are things and people and places in California you can’t find in Ohio. After years of keeping my head lodged in my own butt, I finally have a chance to show my little sister my world. I wouldn’t trade this chance for anything.

Our daughter had a most wonderful time with our son and his girlfriend and we were delighted she had the opportunity to visit him. Although a wee bit nervous about flying alone all the way across the US, she was a trouper, as we knew she would be. It’s a lovely thing to see our adult (and near-adult) children being their wonderful selves. Although not all the sibling relationships among our children are tight right now, I remember there was a day when I and my sisters were not the best of friends that we are now.

When Jude (California son) flew out for that initial job interview at 18 years of age, he was much different than he is now at 21. He has found an entire world out there that we don’t have in Ohio. I attribute a good bit of this to his girlfriend who first coaxed him out of his shell and then introduced him to many new ideas and experiences. I think it was she who helped him discover how much he wanted to be in relationship with his younger sister.

I know other parents who read my blog understand the joy in watching children become adults, and discovering who they are going to become. It has been one of the greatest joys of my life. And I think there is another trip to CA being cooked up by these two!

My answer to a question on Quora

Quora is a social media website where people post questions and other people answer them. I get emails about parenting questions and sometimes I answer them. Here is today’s question and my answer:

Q: How do I balance the needs of my wonderful aging parents, my wonderful adult children, and my little grandchildren when they live 1,300 miles apart?

My answer: I’m in a “wonderful adult children” group, but I have children and had grandparents and still have a mother. 

What my grandmother loved was receiving telephone calls. If she were still living, I think she would love to Skype. What meant so much to her was to feel that her family had time for her. So, letters, phone calls, photos, anything that let her know we were thinking of her. For that generation, tangible things are best. Actual photos can be carried around and shared with their friends.

Your adult children are likely swamped with life. The things we treasure are gifts of time and gifts of food. I love it when my mother provides a meal for my family, either by delivering it or having us over. And when she takes cares of my young son, that is a HUGE blessing. To me, food and time are even better than money!

For grandchildren, I think their real need is to know that someone cares enough to spend time, to listen, to look them in the eyes. Of course they like it when surprises arrive in the mail, but nothing takes the place of time spent together walking, playing, visiting the zoo, etc. 

Overall, facilitating intergenerational experiences is a wonderful way to balance the needs. Create a round robin letter that gets sent from family to family and added on to at each home before sending on. Start a blog! When I began posting on a daily basis, my mom was thrilled. Even if we don’t talk that day, she still sees pictures, hears about what I’m doing, hears about the grandkids, and just has a sense for what our daily life is like. Find ways that make sense to you to create connection between the generations. 

Experiences are the things that create the memories that never fade.

A Katzenjammer of Miscellany 7/29 Edition

1. I sent the down payment today for a little puppy called Mr. Rochester. The name comes from Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Ring of Endless Light, which

2. You should read if you haven’t. L’engle wrote beautifully. I loved her book about her marriage. Two-Part Invention.

3. Everyone should have a Kepler in their life. Who else gets a “Nice work, Mom” when they vacuum up some visible crumbs.

4. Having an accountant keep track of what needs to be sent where and when is what I call manna from heaven.

5. Investigated the open burn laws in my city. No more will I break those particular laws!

6. Connecting with friends on a heart level is such a juicy experience. I got to do that today.

7. Banks make mistakes too. Thankfully, they can fix them quickly.

8. It’s a precious time when a teenager wants to have a good chat with mom.

9. Cesar Millan is now my favorite author, as I try to learn everything about dogs in three weeks.

10. Still waiting for my reserved copy of Harper Lee’s book to arrive at my library. I’m about 219th on the list of patrons waiting.

11. Life is so dang good. 

When the Garbo Looks at Your Trashcans and Says Uh, No.

Isn’t that nice? My fire was much more messy and much less separated from the grass around it.

Yesterday, I flexed my biceps and actually sweated while cutting down an overgrown forsythia bush in our sideyard. There are actually two bushes over there and I had intended to cut them both down, but reality.

So, I cut and cut and cut and cut. Gathered. Put some in a trashcan, so clever. It was “IN” the trashcan, except that you apparently don’t count the airspace above the can as “IN.” But at that point, I was optimistic and hopeful that the middle-of-the-night pickup would be staffed by a waste collector who would chuckle lightly and cluck his tongue, “Oh, that Susan . . .” and then would take away the giant mess I had left at the street.

Imagine my response this morning when I looked out my window and discovered that my garbage cans/trees were still right where I left them. I peered up and down the street, trying to determine if maybe for some reason he hadn’t been by yet. Couldn’t tell. Usually, they empty the cans and sling them back to the edge, leaving quite a wake of chaos behind them. I kinda knew when I saw them that I had pushed the limits a little too hard.

So, from the frying pan to the fire. LOL. I dragged all that brush to the back 40 where I tried about 17 times to start a fire, and FINALLY got it to start. Then I burned everything up, worrying the entire time that the fire department was going to see the smoke (they are right over THERE) and come and give me what for. When not worrying about the fire department, I worried about my neighbor’s pool getting lots of ashes floating down into it, but not as much as I would have if she would ever let us swim in it. (Haha.)

In my usual methodical way, I circled the fire, making sure it didn’t jump its borders. Nice thing to have a phone, so I could instruct my daughter to bring me the second trashcan of tree, as I didn’t want to leave the fire unattended. Burning up the brush is probably illegal. I’ll have Tomorrow Susan look that up since I still have another entire forsythia to remove.

The only excitement was when a piece of ash landed on my head, but I didn’t know it until my scalp starting feeling super hot. Got that all tended to by smacking my hair multiple times with my hands, and then without further ado, continued burning up the brush.

Remembering my wilderness tripping days, I made sure to put plenty of water on the ashes and make sure the fire was completely out. Another eyesore in the yard has been cleaned up. Making progress back there indeed.

When an Addict Shows Up at Your Door

My heart sank even as my face lit up when my son burst through my front door this evening. I surely wasn’t expecting him. He was in jail this morning and was supposed to stay there for the foreseeable future. What is early release anyway? How do they decide who to give that to? Why doesn’t the judge get to keep someone from being released early?

I was in the process of putting Kepler to bed, and we happened to be in the middle of a stare-down about whether or not he was going to brush with toothpaste tonight. I was determined he was. He was determined he wasn’t. The usual type of thing, but I knew I would win this one. What I didn’t expect was having to abandon the duel at fifty paces to deal with my addict son arriving.

I saw an unfamiliar car in the driveway, driven by an unfamiliar person. By virtue of the fact that my son gave this guy his name and number, that made me very suspicious about who this person might be, and why he was driving my son out to the suburbs from the downtown jail.

The thing is, as I told my mother the other day, i think my brain is made up of 75% gorilla glue, so when a thought gets in there, it gets stuck pretty quickly. After talking to my son this morning, I was basically depending on the conversation we had had, thinking that I could count on the facts as I knew them. He was in jail. He was going to call me at 6pm. He was going to be transferred to another facility when a bed became available so that he could be assessed for suitability for in-patient rehab. (I can tell them, if they want to know, that he is definitely a good candidate for in-patient). And then, and then, and then, I spend time this afternoon thinking about what book would be good to send him from Amazon, and how we might continue to work on some of the thinking processes we had been talking about.

And then he shows up.

I confess my first response was not “Perfect, what’s next?” or even, “Yes, and,” which are my two favorite responses to unexpected events. Applying them now, I discover the following: Perfect, what’s next? He will see his probation officer in the morning. I will drive him. He may appear before the judge again. She may send him back to jail. If she does, he may be extremely distressed. I will respond to whatever happens with as much grace and wisdom as I can access. Yes, he is out of jail, and that means he has access to drugs and there is nothing I can do to prevent that. I can drive him downtown tomorrow, support him through the process, and feel what I feel throughout.

I don’t have to control this. I can allow the process to unfold.

As the last two paragraphs of the Desiderata poem say,

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

So Many More Opportunities Today to say Perfect, What’s Next?

When I thought someone was in jail, but they got early release and showed up at my door.

When I decided to tell the truth to someone and it was really hard to do.

When I was running late this morning because of all the details I HAD to tend to before we left.

When my phone would not send messages for some mysterious reason.

When I had to turn off the music I wanted to listen to for several more hours.

When I wondered if the person in front of me was showing symptoms of being high on drugs.

There was a time a couple months ago when I was afraid I might miss a day of blogging, that I might forget or not have anything to post, or just somehow end my habit of daily blogging. I can definitely say that by now, at least 200 posts from the first one in January, I am GOING to blog every day. Different days contain different levels of content that can be assimilated by others, but I’m still here.

I am very, very thankful for the resources I have. And it’s reasonable to be thrown off when something like early release from jail happens, especially under the circumstances. So, tonight, I can basically just pour it all out on my blog and trust that tomorrow is a new day and will have its own adventures.

Do I LOOK Like a Vacuum Cleaner Repairperson?

No, I do not.

Nevertheless, I got tired of my vacuum dilemma wherein the easy vacuum was not working properly and the hard vacuum was too much trouble to get out. FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS, MAN.

So, I pulled out the easy vacuum and took it all apart. Not. Just pulled and pushed all the stuff that could be pulled and pushed. Then, I started it up, and THWUMP, a big hunk of detritus got sucked into the dust chamber and I knew I had (accidentally) fixed another little annoyance.

Readers, do you have something like that in your house? Something that needs to be fixed that is annoying you? Fix it! If you can’t do it yourself, take it to the repairperson who can! It feels great to have something like this done.

Try it! You’ll like it!

ATop [Some Number] Things I Learned From an Egg McMuffin

The people outside the courthouse are truly a diverse bunch. I thought maybe some of them might not have eaten breakfast, so I picked up 4 Egg McMuffins™ on my way to court yesterday to share.

1. Have two POCKETSFUL of change for the parking meter because a quarter doesn’t get you very far. 

2. Practice parallel parking before you go downtown, lest you end up actually connected TO the sidewalk via your wheels. 

3. Keep in mind you could give away as many Egg McMuffins™ as you can carry since the ones you had were given away before you even stepped away from your car (the one attached to the curb by the wheels).

4. It really is better to err on the side of being early rather than late unless you want to have a little panic attack when you get to the courtroom and discover it’s already in session and you wonder if you missed your son’s appearance!

5. Next time, consider getting Sausage biscuits that are only $1 apiece. McDonald’s food is probably about the same, however many ingredients it has.

6. If you have the inclination to do something like share a few Egg McMuffins™ around, go for it! Everything’s a learning experience.

7. Think about whether there might be other reasonably priced options that have better nutrition.

8. Ask my readers for input. Readers! What are your thoughts about what other foods I could carry and offer? 

9. For all the bad things about McDonald’s, it’s certainly nice to be able to count on getting the same quality food from every location every time. 

A-HI Computers and Electronics — a cool little place

For several years, we have been taking electronics to A-HI in Norwood when they need to be fixed. Most recently, I had him repair a pair of Quincy Jones headphones. A-HI comes from Alan H. Immerman’s initials. Cool name! I know it’s been awhile, because I originally found him in the Yellow Pages under “Electronics — Repair and Service.”

Alan Immerman, Proprietor

The shop is tiny and packed with every variety of electronic, from the most current flat-screen TV to vintage printers and stereo components.


Every time Alan fixes something for a customer, he attaches this note to the receipt:

The Economics of Repair, or…
Where did our jobs go..?

       When we throw away an electronics product, it goes into a landfill and rusts. We then purchase new products, which are made more cheaply, and our money goes to Korea and China. An alternative is to have our older products repaired. A repair might cost as much or even more than a cheaper replacement, but often the older units are built better – more ruggedly constructed and able to be serviced. Dollars spent locally on repairing older products provide jobs here and now in Cincinnati, and our money stays in the U.S.A., instead of going to foreign lands.

Something to think about?

If you happen to think it’s valuable to consider fixing something electronic, this is the place to go. His prices are reasonable; his work is excellent; and there’s definitely a unique charm to the entire experience.

You can find A-HI Computers and Electronics at 4030 Montgomery Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45212. The phone number is 531-1111. More information at

For readers not in the Cincinnati area, I bet you have your own version of this little shop in your area. Today may not officially be Small Business Saturday — I think that is sometime in November — and, oh, it’s actually Friday today, isn’t it, but I highly recommend this business. Give it a try when you need something fixed!

A Docket of Brooding

5. You know you’ve been in the courtroom too many times when you begin to recognize other defendants besides the one you are there for.

You totes cannot have your phone on inside the courtroom.

3b. Tattoos, amirite. Just why to some of the ones I saw today.

Not an actual defendant from this morning.

15. The court system has arrived at the conclusion that telling the whole mess of defendants to show up at the same time works just fine, regardless of whether it means people have to sit on extremely uncomfortable benches for 5 1/2 hours.

Features an edge at the top of the back that totally digs into your back all day long.

6. HOW HOW HOW HOW do the staff, attorneys and judge work in that environment every day and not go home completely cynical about the chances of people who are addicted to drugs?

18. The humanity of a prosecuting attorney who looks through the diet cokes in the cooler in the deli to find one that has the name of his daughter on it.

G. Kinda tough to find icebreakers with strangers beyond “How are ya?” Some I caught and released: “First time here?” “So what’s positive in your life right now?”

That’s me on the left.

And. It never gets any easier to watch my child being put into handcuffs. All I can do is trust the process and believe that there is going to ultimately be a good outcome.

art by