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Guest Post from my son 

I asked my son to write a post about his experience with drug addiction and recovery. I’m experimenting with having family members guest post for me on Sundays. How I love this kid. Here is his offering:
I honestly can’t remember the first time I tried drugs, but I can remember why. It was exciting! It felt like I was doing something bad (but not as bad as, say, breaking into a business, so it was still within my comfort zone). I felt powerful and cool. Nobody else in 9th grade had really caught on that stuff like marijuana was around our town and it was a pretty fun way to waste an afternoon. What’s interesting, looking back, is that I didn’t even like the actual substance at first. For a couple of years all I did was smoke weed and drink, and both of those only because of social pressure, for the most part. I didn’t like either of them, didn’t like how they made me feel unfocused and out of it. Oftentimes they gave me anxiety or depression. But I wanted to be cool so I kept doing it.

Between the ages of 16-19 I found drugs I actually liked and I started doing them. All the time. A lot of people say that people become drug addicts because they’re trying to cover up unwanted emotions. I guess there was some of that in my drug use. Mainly, it was based on a worldview that there was nothing beautiful or worthwhile in the world and I might as well feel good while I can, because I sure as hell never felt good normally. My depression was definitely a huge contribution to why I started taking so many narcotics. I usually felt either unbearably numb or unbearably sad. Unfortunately, the drugs did such a good job making me feel better – not just numbing me, as many people think – but actually giving me motivation, perceived creativity, social skills, and bringing me the happiness I had always sought.

I don’t know when I first realized it wasn’t working anymore but it couldn’t have been long after waking up in my bedroom being held down by a paramedic as I came back from a heroin overdose. My whole body felt cold, my legs were shaking uncontrollably, and I was incredibly confused. How could this have happened? I almost killed myself. That was never supposed to be part of getting high.

Many more terrible things like that first overdose happened both before and after. Over the span of 3 years, it all slowly came to an inevitable head. I ended up in rehab multiple times, and started to visit different jails around the city in “field trips” that would range from a night to a week. I lost everything several times, got kicked out of several houses, and lost jobs. So what made the difference?

What made the difference was accepting that I simply wasn’t going to get where I wanted to go with drugs. It had sure seemed like it for quite awhile, but for the past 12 months it had started to affect my life in a myriad of awful ways. Unfortunately, the police, my parents, and my girlfriend couldn’t do a whole lot to convince me otherwise because I just didn’t want to let go of the one thing that had worked so well. Sometimes I still don’t want to but drugs take me to places I really, really, really don’t want to be. And not doing drugs allowed me to purchase my own car, to find another job with a company who had previously fired me for getting arrested at my workplace, to move into an apartment, and to actually have some hope for my future.

I do go to a lot of AA meetings. I have to, because of the conditions of my probation. But at the same time, there’s a few that I really like. I had no idea what AA was and didn’t care to before I got into rehab. I still don’t know how I feel about the “lifetime disease” model that most of AA believes. I don’t want to think I’m an addict or an alcoholic, or that I have a lifetime disease. I already feel defective enough. The ways AA has helped me out the most have really just been a group therapy environment and the support of a lot of friendly individuals in the program. I take what I can get out of each meeting and leave the rest, but I do try to use it to become a better person. Awhile ago, I told someone close to me I want to make choices that I can be proud of. I still really want to reach for that. There’s such a difference in me, even in my physiology, when I feel proud of what I’ve done. It cannot be overstated that a life of love and sharing and compassion really does feel better than a life of deceit and betrayal – even if the latter gets you high. 

I’ve caught a glimpse of happiness, here and there. I’m so stressed most of the time it’s hard to feel. Much of the time I feel like I’m stuck in midair, going nowhere. The way the justice system keeps me mired in obligations isn’t just irritating, it’s downright demoralizing. The only way I keep going on is leaning on the people around me. When I discovered drugs I didn’t think I needed anyone and I avoided getting too close to people. Now I think I need people and I avoid getting too close to drugs. The only downside is, certain drugs have a 100% success rate in making me feel better and people don’t. But the difference is people build me up and they give me constructive critisicm and they converse with me. Drugs are silent. They tear me down and are obviously nowhere to be seen when I’m sitting in a jail cell. It’s just moronic to put all my faith in inanimate objects. 

It’s been such a tough path of recovery I’ve wanted to give up about a billion times. But I still have so much that I thought I had lost, it’s worth continuing to try. I got a tattoo of a rose on my shoulder the other day. I just wanted to. And when my family asked me what it was for, I shrugged a little and said “I just like beautiful things.” And that was true. That was a choice I could be proud of, and that rose represents a lot to me, even if it doesn’t represent something specific. It represents the facet of my core personality, after stripping drugs and everything else away, that is absolutely in love with beauty. And that’s how I want to live my life going forward. Surrounded by beauty, making choices that I can be proud of. 

The One You Feed

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”

Recently, I have heard this parable several times. I found a podcast called The One You Feed which shares this parable at the beginning of each episode and the host asks the guest what this story means to them. I’ve only caught a few episodes so far, but I highly recommend Episode 54 where Eric interviews James Clear.

Then, in Tomorrowland, the young protagonist tells this story.

When I have a recurrence of information coming to me like this story, I find myself paying closer attention to the message that may be in it for me. One message is that I want to share this resource with you. It’s a good question to ask: which wolf are you feeding?

Some of the Blessings of This Day

Getting to see my 19yo son this morning.

Watching Kepler walk to the bus, and noticing his enjoyment of the process.

Having a great school nurse who called me with concerns about him an hour later.

Picking him up, bringing him home and staying close while he napped.

A beautiful sunshiny day for Field Day at the school.

A lovely text exchange with my eldest son and one with my eldest daughter.

A great speech therapist for Kepler to see this afternoon.

Satisfying interactions with my beloved husband.

More incredible teaching from Kristen Sweeting Morelli.

A stress level that has gone from off the charts to negligible.

Sweet time with Kepler between his nap and when he went back for Field Day to play games.

This Post Brought To You By One of the Offspring

My mom had a pretty long day today and normally that’s not enough to stop her from posting because she is ruff and tuff and hard to guard but I volunteered to guest post and that was that. 


Yesterday at work a man asked me if I have a bucket list. My job has nothing to do with such things, so it actually left me speechless for a few seconds, mostly because of some serendipitous timing. Yesterday on the drive to work I was thinking about my bucket list. It has the usual things on it. Visit Paris. Drive out west and back just for the sake of seeing the Pacific Ocean and, as Kerouac put it, running out of land and turning for home. Finish my tattoos. Skydive. But it has some slightly less bombastic things on it too. Find a perfectly fitting white linen buttondown shirt, for instance. Have cats. Pay off my student loans.

I told him yes, I have a bucket list. I was just trying to figure out if it would be better to start checking things off now in my 20s and worry about the money later, or save all the money I can and do all the things later When I Have Time.

He was old, to put it simply. Very old, and having a bad day because he had lost his father’s Navy insignia earlier that day and it had been his father’s dying gift to him. And he looked at me and said, “It’s a matter of balance. Yeah, some things, you need the money for. Save some of those for later. But don’t wait. You’ll wait too long and then it’ll be too late.” He told me about the final unchecked item on his bucket list: a solo sailing trip around the world. And he told me he would never take it, because there was no way his health would permit him to do it anymore.

“I have no regrets,” he told me. “I’ve done almost everything I wanted to do. I raised four great kids and they’re all so smart. I’ve only had bad luck with women.” And he laughed for the first time in our appointment.

“You don’t know where your life is going.” That’s what he left me with.

Just something to think about.

A Field Trip with a Beautiful Boy

After the school field trip, I did some research this afternoon into how to teach Kepler. Two things resonated enough to write down.

Meet the child where he is.

Follow the child.

These are both from a Montessori website which addresses how to use Montessori materials to teach a child with special needs. 

I could leave him to his iPad, or I could take him to the park. One thing I know about him is he thrives on loving attention. Another thing I know about him is he loves to go places. 

Unlike the earlier (school) field trip, on this one, we climbed on rocks in the creek, watched some children who were walking in the creek, played the “drums” on a resonant railing, asked “Brad” and “Breezy” their names and told them ours, met a friendly dog, tried climbing some trees, stopped at the amphitheater and put on shows for each other, and practiced counting as we took turns balance beaming on the concrete parking stops. I basically followed his lead and took advantage of every teachable moment. 

Yes, I can most definitely teach him. It looks different than typical second grade. I’d say he’s about at the developmental age of a 4-5 year old when it comes to what and how he is ready to learn. So there’s a pretty good reason why I have such a struggle with how his school days go. 

I’ll definitely figure it out. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but unhurried exploring is part of it. Laughing and singing will be essential. Jumping. Pretending. Talking together. Holding hands, walking, racing. Touching the world. Trusting my intuition. 

He deserves it. 

Yes, and ……..

valerie saying yes

When “Whose Line is it Anyway?” was on the air, Greg and I were deep in our “raising-children-without-television” years, so I have only seen a couple sketches on YouTube. There are some great ones with Robin Williams. And when I was growing up, “improvisation” was about the piano! It was cool to be able to improvise on the piano. I don’t even remember hearing about the comedy form of “improv,” even if it was being practiced around me, or even by me!

As I hurtle from book to book in my life, I gnaw my way through some, power my way through others, and positively jump into a few with both feet and all my toes. One of the books in that latter category which I happened on a few years ago is called “Truth in Comedy” by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim “Howard” Johnson. (Figures it would be a collaborative effort since it is the “manual of improvisation” and improv is most definitely a collaborative effort.)

Chapter 4 is called “Yes, &.” Rather than arguing, this rule means the actors agree, AND add something, which gives the other actor something to continue the sketch with.

That works in life, too! When I say “no” to what is happening, I pretty much close off my creative paths. When I say “yes, and” I’m allowing my creative juices to flow in responding to what is happening.

While writing this post, I got sucked into the vortex of YouTube looking for the perfect sketch I could link to. I probably spent an hour, at the end of which I had nothin’. I can say “NO, I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS AND I SHALL FIND A VIDEO, DANG IT.” and then what’s left to me but to continue to go through them one at a time, watching the commercials before every video, getting more and more irritated, looking for the video that I know must be there.

Or, I can say. “Yes, I am not finding a perfect video, and perhaps that means putting a video into this post is not the path for me. Maybe I could finish the post and look later. Maybe I could let my readers search YouTube on their own and find funny videos that they enjoy. Maybe there’s even something different that this post is to be about, something different for me to learn as I write.”

The point, and I do have one, is that saying yes to what is provides a type of agreement that enables me to greet what comes with a semblance of acceptance, and think about how to move forward.

Well, I’ve dithered around with this one for long enough. Or maybe, yes, I’ve dithered with this post for quite some time, and I’d really like to feel good about posting it, so I’m going to stick with it for just a few more minutes . . .

And now I am ready to post. What phrases do you find helpful in dealing with the inevitable changes that come?

Xeno-canto

All of the A to Z bloggers around the world have been fussing about this letter, I’m sure. What to choose? Should I cheat and use a word with “x” somewhere in it? How about using it as the first letter colloquially, like x-tra? Well, who wants to listen to me natter on about the troubles of blogging? NO ONE.

My theme this month is acceptance. Acceptance for this letter means that I accept that there really isn’t any word that feels meaningful to me to write about. Sure, there is xenophobe, xenophile, and xenomania, and other words having to do with a preference for, or strong fear of, that which is foreign to us. Maybe that’ll be my post next year for the challenge.

In the meantime, I found this Very Cool Website called Xeno-canto. The site was begun in 2005 by two men who are part of the four-member team who maintain the site to this day. The idea is to upload bird songs, so that others might share in the discovery and the appreciation.

I remember distinctly the sound of the Australian bell bird, and can even remember the exact car park (parking lot in Aussie) we were in when I first heard them. And look here! There are multiple recordings of the bell birds on xeno-canto. And mourning doves! (which I grew up thinking were “morning” doves because that’s always when I heard them).  This is similar to what I woke to every morning in my sunny Ohio bedroom. How was I ever grumpy in the morning??

Do you love bird songs like I do? What songs are connected with special memories for you?

W is for Whopper-jawed and other Linguistical Funnies

My dad had all kinds of colorful sayings. “I hope to kiss a garboon,” he’d say, to emphasize how much he meant what he was saying. There were a few that were acceptable then, that are no longer appropriate, so we’ll skip those, but he did say the darnedest things. One of the words he used regularly was “whopper-jawed.” I was a kid, so I didn’t really think about what that meant. It’s not like we were texting back and forth, so I never saw the word in print. I actually thought it was spelled wopperjod. When I pronounced it, it definitely sounded like wopperjod. Much later, I thought to ask what the heck this word meant. I really don’t know or care about the origin of it because I have enough minutiae in my brain to fill a ten-story building, but I do think it’s a cool word.

One other very fun memory I have is from the eighth grade city-wide spelling bee. This was the written portion where we would find out if we qualified for the next level. All my life, I had been reading the word façade as Fuh-Kade. All my life. I didn’t even know what it was. As a young reader, I read now and figured out what it meant later or not at all. So, during the spelling bee, I was doing my best and suddenly i hear this word Fuh-Sahd, only I had no context whatsoever for it, and simply could not imagine what they were saying. I thought and thought and thought and didn’t arrive at façade. The best I could come up with, and believe me this was hard for Miss Goody Two-Shoes to write, was pissad. Greg and I still use this word to this day because it’s just so precious. “We have greatly altered the pissad of our home by adding vinyl siding.” LOL.

Back when Reader’s Digest was a ubiquitous magazine, I’d always do the “Word Power” challenge. I have always loved words and have written elsewhere about my spelling triumphs and failures, as well as my 30-year streak of playing Boggle with my Dad. I’ve always noticed words and enjoyed word play. Do you have any words that you originally thought were something else?