Granny and Fat Tuesday


Dear Granny,

You left us on Fat Tuesday in 2003. It’s been eleven years, and today marks the first time that Fat Tuesday has been on March 4th, just as it was in 2003. And, even as I sit here, and realize all that’s gone on in these 11 years, there has been and will never be anyone quite like you. I remember the last time I saw you in the Nursing Home, when time stopped, and we held each other’s hands as Dolly Parton’s version of “I Will Always Love You” played somewhere in the background.

I can hear you saying “Linny”. No one gets to call me that. It’s a name reserved only for you. I’ve heard you in races. I think it was the Marine Corps Marathon where I visualized you sweeping the porch and getting your brothers up from the card table to blow me down the course. I can barely see the house in Selma now, because they’ve put up a big wall on Highway 99, but I FEEL you every time I drive home.

I miss you.

I miss your smile. I miss having dessert immediately after dinner so we can get all the eating done in one sitting. I miss watching you get up and slam the TV off after Lasorda refused to replace the pitcher, sending your beloved Dodgers to yet another loss. I drive by the Mobile Home park on Herndon and Blackstone, and I feel you there. I can call up the smell of your home, and the creak of the stairs as I walk up to see you. We are playing Bingo with dimes in the clubhouse. We are swimming, and you are washing and drying and wondering why no one can bring their own towel? (There is some type of karma here, because no one brings beach towels to my pool, either.)

It’s coming over to see you when, as a college student, I was a little blue and you would always have sweet rolls. The kind in the package. And you would try to cheer me up, and I would join a sorority and be in and out of your house, and you were always there. On the top step saying goodbye or hello, but always. There.

And I miss Dayton. Coloring books and crayons. Eskimo Pies. BoBo barking as we play basketball in your driveway. The fact that you made two types of oatmeal: One with water, and one with milk, because everyone liked it differently. And Christmas. The best ones at your house with all of the cousins. Hearing the train on hot summer Fresno nights, and going to the movies on the corner. Bass Lake, a topic on its own. But, a gift that you gave to all of us.

And my first memory. You in our house, and I am a little girl of 4, and I get to go in and wake you up in the morning. And I jump on top of you and you start singing to me. And the bed is warm, and you are my Granny and you LOVE me. You let me break the rules, and I can crawl all over you.

And so, dear Granny. It’s been 11 years. I lost that marriage (yep, number 2), and I have two teenagers, and they are magnificent. And, Lisa is a grandmother, and Laura has fallen in love…like, really in love. I just turned 55 and am running my 6th marathon, which might be a bit of a joke, but I’m doing it anyway. And I hope you will show up there, just like all the other times, and I will hear Dolly Parton, and I will always love you until my last breath.

It’s Fat Tuesday. Only you would have died on this day. A day of celebration and joy. Of fun. You brought joy to all of us, every single time. And I miss you more than words can say.

Love, Linda

dad notes.

“Out here a man settles his own problems.” – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

I was thinking about John Wayne as I decided I would write a Father’s Day post.  In looking back at this blog, I have not written about him on Father’s Day for 5 years.  Well, it’s time.

I would love to tell you all the wonderful things that he has accomplished.  He is an Eagle Scout.  He put himself through the University of Idaho setting pins in a bowling alley.  He was one of the Liquid Oxygen and Turbopump designers on the Space Shuttle Main Engine.  He and my Mom raised three daughters  on one salary, and spent weekends working on his Model A.  He bought a home, put me through college.  All of those thankless jobs that many dads do.

But.  He is more than that.

It’s making me get up at 3am in the 60’s, so that we could see the rockets lift off on the East Coast, long before there was tape delay.  It’s going to all my church fellowship events, and winning the award for eating the most tacos.  It’s watching him honor my mother in their nightly cocktail hour…the one where NO children were allowed.  He set the standard for how a man should treat the woman he loves.

He would get me up at 6am when I was in Junior High so that we could run a mile together every morning.  And, at the end, he would yell at me to SPRINT.  It was me, coming in last in the 800…almost so slow that the next event had started…and looking up in the stands to see them cheering me in, and yelling for me to …SPRINT.  He is the reason that at Mile 18 of the LA Marathon, that I did not go with the paramedics.  My father.  He was waiting for me at the finish line. And, I had the same feeling watching him as I ran that day, too.  His face as he watched me.  In shock, and something else.  Pride, I think.

This man, who stared down a mama bear (in the picture above) and her two cubs.  This man who taught me how to fish, and wash dishes, and how to finish college.  Because, I was flunking out in Freshman year with a 1.8 GPA, and he drove all the way to Fresno to have the talk with me.  You know the talk.  Either get it together, or come home talk.

When I got sober, my parents were confused at the turn of events that had them sending their 17 year old to college, only to have her come home as a member of AA.  What did he do?  He found a man at his work who was sober.  He got us together, and this 54 year old man picked me up and took me to meetings with 30 days sober.  And my Dad never talked about it with me too much.  When I went to make my 9th step amends, he told me that I owed him nothing.

It’s not just my childhood.  Last fall, at 77 years old, he drove 290 miles with my mother just to see my son play in his championship football game.  And, at the end, Dad prayed that they just could get the hail mary pass and win.  And…they did.  He is the Grandpa that goes to the Boy Scout camp outs, and is hailed as a leader by the men in our troop.  He is now teaching my sons things that he taught me.  A few months ago, both of my boys were talking on the way home from Scouts one night, and they said, all they wanted was for their Grandpa to see them both become Eagle Scouts.  I sat quietly in the front, full of gratitude.

Mostly.  This is a man who knows how to show up for people.  Not just me, and not just all of my son’s events.  It’s more than that.  It’s going to the judge and explaining how my sister’s ex husband deserved a second chance, just so his granddaughter could see her daddy.  It’s picking up another ex brother in law and driving him to where he needed to be…without judgement.   It’s being the rock when each of us had our turn in the barrel.  My Dad is the one, who is simply.  There.

If you go to their house on the corner in Woodland Hills, you may see my Mom and Dad sitting out on the porch having a drink.  They will be watering his roses or he will be puttering in and out of his garage.  But.  You will be welcome.  To grab a beer, to sit down, to just visit.  Because this man.  He sets the gold standard for welcoming and hospitality.

I don’t ever remember calling him Daddy.  He is always just.  Dad.  I love him more than I can say.  He is the epitome of the John Wayne quote that started this blog post, and still every day I learn something new from him.  We come from boots and bootstraps, and he is the reason that I even know what perseverance means.

I am blessed with the best Dad on the planet.

Happy Father’s Day.  I love you.

a long tribute to my sweet girl.

About a million years ago, I walked into the shelter, looking for a chocolate Lab.  We had seen Chet on their website, and thought, well…it’s time.  Actually, my thoughts were to get dogs to save my failing, faltering marriage.  This is not a good plan, by the way.  He left the following February.

We saw Chet jumping, and I told the boys, just let me go look around.  I saw Princess in the back of her kennel.  I asked the girl to let me see this dog.  She opened the gate, and Princess walked over to me, and immediately sat at my feet.  Her eyes begged “Rescue Me”, and she was so sweet and docile, and well…she loved me.  We heard that she had come to the shelter pregnant, and all puppies were euthanized.  The last family that had her had a lot of noisy children, and Princess hid behind their couch, so the family brought her back, and in bringing her back, gave me the biggest gift of all.

This picture is the first night we brought her home in the Spring of 2006.  As I sit here typing, I remember that first night.  She didn’t come in, but sat outside my bedroom door with her head up looking around the yard.  Every time I woke, there she was, surveying her new surroundings.She sat there a lot.

We soon realized that the pink ribbon wasn’t really her.  In fact, she quickly became the dominant dog, and I pictured her name being Ginger or something.  Cigar in paw, glass of wine, ordering people around.

She has neuroses.  The first Fourth of July, I left the dogs home, and when I had come home, the screens were off of my window, and she had taken down my glass to get herself into the house.  She hated wind and weather, climbing into the smallest space by my desk.  She has chewed off door jambs, gotten out of the tiniest places, and literally has been in jail at least 8 times.  There was time I tried to set up one of those electric fence thingys and just as I was teaching her this, she looked at me with the collar on, and jumped right over the fence.  That was a short lived experiment, but I was desperate.  In any case, this $35 shelter dog cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000.  At least.  Even after she is gone, I’m still paying the umpteenth ticket on time.

The last few years, the Police would call my cell, and say…We have Princess.  Who can come and get her.  She simply needed to run free.  Her issues were fireworks, loud noises and cameras.  I have had the iPhone text on silent for so long, because she simply would leave the room in a panic.  This is a dog who did not respond well when the ex husband and I argued.  Still today, loud voices scared her.  Reluctantly at times, I would get in my car and drive down to the shelter to get her AGAIN.  I would be mad at her.  Frustrated.  Get her in the car, to the vet, to the dog groomer.  Again and again.  I stopped trusting that she would stay.  I accepted she was a runner.

Last month, she was diagnosed with an ugly rectal cancer that was starting to invade her pelvis.  Our doctor told us she had about a month.  Well, today it was a month.  The boys told me she couldn’t poop on the walks, and I had been watching her daily.  She still barked at the mailman, the pool man, anyone who came to my door.  Today, she was barking like crazy at someone…This dog howled at fire trucks and in the end, could barely get out a weak growl.

But.  We didn’t want her to suffer.  The tumor was getting bigger, and I knew it was only a matter of time.  The boys and I discussed it last night, and decided that today was the day.  We were to take her to the vet and assess the tumor.  The vet said it was a matter of time, that there was the alternative of stool softeners, etc.  However, I knew my children, my lovely young men who had spent hours walking these dogs, could not take more of saying goodbye.  We had decided as a family that this was the right thing to do.  That we simply did not want her to hurt.  Not one more day.  The inevitable was here.

She was not happy.  Agitated.  I laid on her blanket.  The one where she would take her last breath.  We were all petting her and telling her we loved her.  The shot was quick.  Her eyes simply closed.  We kissed and hugged her and told her we loved her…again and again.  I can’t tell you that that 10 seconds was quick.  It was forever and fast at the same time.

And then she was gone.

In the last days, she let Chet lay with her, and this was unheard of.  He walked around and around, and laid under the table all day…he knew.  He comes by my chair all day today, after she left…his buddy gone.

We talked a lot today how we rescued her from the shelter.  But it was the other way around.  She would go put her head on the boys’ beds and give them comfort when I had no more words for what was happening to their world.  She would lay by my feet while I cried buckets of tears.  She loved her morning walks, and sat by the window precisely at 3:15pm when the bus would deliver her charges from school.  In the morning, she would help me go from door to door getting up the sleepy teenagers, but at night.  At night, she was on her spot right by my bed.

We knew she needed to run away.  Perhaps she needed to know that we would never take her back to the shelter…maybe she tested the waters to see if I would come back for her.  And I always did.   Because that’s how I love.

She saved me.  And I will miss her for a long time.

grandpa eddy

The story of a little girl.

Coming home with her new album.

Simon & Garfunkle’s

Bridge Over Troubled Water.

I race in and can’t wait to put in on the turntable.

My Grandpa is on the couch. Sick.

So. Very. Sick.

It’s 1970. He has Multiple Myeloma.

Not much longer to live.

But. What do I know?

I’m just excited about this record.

I put it on the player, and the familiar piano chords come out.

My mother, not knowing what this is.

Because we just got out of the 60s.

She comes racing in to tell me not to play it.

It’s too loud!

Grandpa is sick.

He says, “Dee Dee, let her play it.”

And this is the part when I start weeping.

Every time I tell the story.

Because Sail On Silver Girl.

I can see him now. Closed eyes.

Listening to this beautiful music.

It was the last summer he was alive.

And because of his diagnosis, he didn’t see me

graduate high school, college,

He wasn’t at my wedding,

and he never saw my sons.

When I accidentally signed up with TNT the

Summer of 2009, I had no idea

how important this cause would become to me.

I needed a plan. A training plan. I already had a bib.

So, I raised money. I trained.

And. The morning of my first NIKE marathon

The loudspeaker says “Multiple Myeloma”

and my mother looks at me and says,

“That’s what Grandpa had”

His name. Written on my arm.

And now, 4 marathons later,

I run in SLO with his name again.

I am so close. The total at top

does not reflect what I really need.

What I really need.

Is for every little silver girl

To have her Grandpa.

As long as she can and maybe for a lifetime.

If you want to donate to the cause, click here

(This is a post on my fundraising page.  To date, I have raised $2069.80,

and have to raise $2375.  Only $305 to go, if in case you want to help.)

tough times to raise a buck.

As I go to press with this post that has been looming in my psyche for days, I hear the muffled sighs and rolling of eyes.  Or, maybe that’s me.

Most of my friends and family know that I’m fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  It’s all over this blog.  I started fundraising accidentally in 2009, and also accidentally found out that my Grandfather also died from a blood cancer.  Thus, my new love for TNT.

It was easier in 2009.  I was fresh.  Fundraising was fun.

Last fall, I definitely wanted to run the Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon for that Tiffany, and didn’t get the lottery draw, so I joined TNT again.  One heel injury, and vertigo spells later, I had to bow out, with $800 to the good.  I definitely wanted to finish what I started for SF, and found out that San Luis Obispo was also a TNT race.  WOW.  Rollover complete!

This is not a lottery race.  It’s fairly cheap, and I could buy my way in.  I don’t have to continue to raise the money.  At $2550, I think of how much MORE I have to raise to run with the team.

It’s tough times.  I am in a forever non-foreclosing house, making near poverty level, hanging on to rickety pickets on my fence, propping up my back fence with 2 by 4s, broken bits and pieces of the house held together with duct tape.  Seriously.  Why would I take on fundraising in times like this?  Why not just pay for the marathon, and be done with it.


Because I know that kids who have leukemia have a 97% chance of living now.  From the FACTS brochure: (my words…and my stellar chart-reading skills)

  • If you had Myeloma in 1960, you had a 12% survival rate.  Now?  41%
  • A kid with Hodgkins?  In 1960, 40% chance…now…86%
  • Every 4 minutes someone in the US is diagnosed with a blood cancer.  By the time it took me to run my 5 miles today, 14 people were diagnosed.  Every FOUR MINUTES.
  • Myeloma rarely occurs in people under 45.
  • LLS has awarded $814 MILLION in research grants.  MILLION.  That’s a lotta zeroes, people.

So.  I have $900 more to raise.  I have a football pool.  I am trying not to bug you.  It’s a bitch to raise money in these times.  People don’t want to see me coming.  I usually think, why would I want to do this?  I HATE asking people for money.

Then, I think about my Grandpa.  How I was the first born grand-daughter of the Bon Bon Ice Cream Machine inventor.  How, when I was in 6th grade, and he was so sick, and I had my new Simon & Garfunkle album, my mother rushed in to tell me not to play the Rock and Roll.  And.  He said.  “Dee Dee, let her play that song…”  He loved Bridge over Troubled Water.  I am the Silver Girl, and I think of him every day.  I like to think that every time I hear it, he’s in heaven, smiling.

Chances are, he never would have seen my sons.  But.  He might have seen me graduate from college, or be the first one in our family to get a Master of Science degree.  He might have been at my wedding.  Or my other wedding.

So.  I raise money in his memory.

Please don’t think I’m playing on your sympathy.  I hate that mushy shit.  However, if it moves you to donate…even $5, then that’s awesome.  I often get hit up for fundraising.  I take my little check and let it roll into a $10 donation.  I’m embarrassed that I can’t give more, but I can’t.

So.  Go to the raffle on the top of the blog, and let your money play a game.  $1000 will be donated to TNT, and the LLS.  I will do the same for you, if you only ask.


Open Letter To My Teenagers.

Christmas, 1999

Dear Sons,

It’s that time again.  You are both awesome.  Yes, I could be more creative in my description, but honestly, I love you both to pieces.  Articulate and bright, funny and friendly.  So many adjectives could describe you.  But.  Because I’m your Mom, you know I love everything about you, even if it drives me nuts at times.  That’s what this letter is about.

  1. Table Manners: These are not optional.  Okay, sometimes when we are rushing around going to Scouts or sports, you can put your elbows on the table…But mostly…Elbows off the table, napkins in lap, no smacking, take a breath, have a conversation.  Ask to have the food passed.  Salt and Pepper are married:  they’re passed together.
  2. Wearing Hats:  Hats are intended to keep your head warm.  If you are at the table, they come off.  Every time.  Not sideways, or backwards.  Oh, and while you’re at it, couldja get all your hats together in one place?
  3. Your Video Stuff:  This morning, I stepped on XBox headsets as I sleepily made my way across the den with a cup of coffee…the only real time I have to sit and collect my thoughts before I start my day.  Sorry if it broke, but not really, because have I asked you to move that stuff?  Yes.  Oh, and I know you’ve worn me down with Modern Warfare.  I seriously hope and pray you don’t become snipers in real life.
  4. Homework:  I know you have it. If you are in Middle School, you certainly have Math and English every night.  I know, because I taught it.  When you do your homework, use the desks that I have provided for you…not your bed, with the TV, iPod and Facebook open on your laptops.  Seriously, your teachers will thank you.
  5. Texting, Facebook, Internet in General:  You may not have cussing or sexual references on your Facebook.  Sorry.  If someone posts something like that, it’s your responsibility to remove it.  Oh, and tell me about it, so some parent doesn’t look sideways at me because I’m the 8% of the divorce rate in our town, and assumes that I’m not raising you correctly.  PS.  Do not EVER pretend to be someone else.  It surely will get back to me, and you’ll be losing said machines.
  6. Punishments, Consequences:  I decide those.  They are not open for negotiation.  I taketh away, and I give back.  Not you.  Also, if you lose your phone, iPod, etc., due to consequences, you will be given an additional chore to do.  It’s the way I roll.
  7. We’re all in this together:  I love you.  You are my world.  I pay the bills, I let you live in the house. I cook for you, I teach you everything I think you need to know.  I’m sorry I’m a single Mom, and don’t have that family structure you used to have.  But, you know what else we don’t have?  We don’t fight and yell.  We have family meetings.  We are not afraid, for the most part.
  8. Support:  You will attend your brother’s awards ceremonies.  You will show up for the championships, and you will clap and support him.  Your job is to be a family member.  I want you to know that you won’t always have each other…that someday your loves and jobs and kids and careers will become the focus.  Meanwhile, suck it up and wear the school colors for your brother.
I love you.  You exceed every expectation that I ever had when I thought about having children.  You’re no longer babies, but you still need parenting.
And.  That’s just what I’m going to keep doing.
Love, Mom


Soul Tacos.

The original Taco Bell design.
Image via Wikipedia

“I’m going to write a blog post about my Mother’s tacos,” I announce to my Mom today.

“What? What’s that you said?” 

“Nothing Mom.  Nothing.”

“No.  I want to know what you said.”

I get up to go and get the laptop because this year at Thanksgiving, I realize I’ve written about running my hometown year after year.  This morning, she says, “I think we will have tacos tonight.” And, my food memory started to percolate.  The tacos of my mother’s.  There is a story.

In the 70’s, there was a Taco Bell across the street from our church.  And in that Taco Bell was a menu.  There were weird things like frijoles, burritos, enchiladas.  And, right next to them were the pronunciations:  (free-ho-les, boo-rhee-toes, en-chee-la-das).  We really didn’t know what Mexican food was.  We grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and while the Hispanic population is now very prolific, we just didn’t know any Mexican people.  There were Jews and Mormons and us.  And, that’s about it.

So, the Mexican food restaurants were few and far between, and we never heard of these meals.  There certainly weren’t things like “Meal D2” that my son yells into the Taco Bell speakers now.  Mexican food was an oddity.

My parents had neighbors Jane and Clarence.  Jane used to fix tacos for her husband in the 60’s, and one night, they fixed them for my mother.  She showed my Mom how to do the taco shells.  The trick, my mother says, is to fold them over in time in the grease.  You must know the exact moment when they will be done, yet not too crispy.  You must have beef, cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce…and a gazillion types of hot sauce.  The weird thing is, as easy as it seems, no one can ever make them like she does.

We even went on a Girl Scout camping trip where my Mom made tacos.  My Dad got an award, that said WOW EIGHT TACOS!  Yeah, the award was shaped like a taco. 

We have rituals about our tacos.  Everything is laid out on the stove in order.  My dad makes one taco.  Eats it.  Rinses and dries his plate before getting another one.  He explains, you must have a clean plate for the next taco.  There are no spoons in the fixings bowls.  You must pick everything up with your fingers.  We don’t have forks.  It’s the way we do it.  My mom has one, then makes a salad out of the rest of the stuff.  They have a beer before the tacos, then wine.  And always, ice water for everyone.

Every Friday for as many years as I can remember, my Mother has made tacos.  Nothing fancy.  No beans.  No salad.  No rice.  No fancy salsas.  Just tacos.  And, as much as the streets and the runs and the schools are all a part of me…these tacos…are the Friday nights of my life.

As I finish with my blog post, I tell my mother “I just wrote a blog post about your tacos.”  She replies:  “Who would want to read about that?”  And in this moment, I realize that the non-special-ness of my mother’s food is what makes it so spectacular.  The regularity.  The comfort. 

The fact that they’re hers.