30 June 2005

"From the moment I first saw you. The second that you were born..."

Susie and Justin
Originally uploaded by susiewrites.
When this little guy was about eight years old, we used to sing "You're The Love Of My Life", by Carly Simon. Sometimes, we'd even hold hands while we were doing it. The lyrics were so perfectly apropos, particularly the lines, "You can drive me crazy. You can drive me anywhere. Here are the keys, just do as you please, it may not always be easy..."

And it hasn't always been easy. I must say it's always been interesting and, to be honest, it's almost always been fun. I wouldn't trade a second of it. I just wish the seconds hadn't passed by so fast. It seems as if they start out fairly slow but somewhere along the way, they gain this powerful momentum and before you blink, your son is bursting into your office and asking you to put more A&D Ointment on his latest tattoo.

"Ouch!" No, that was me saying that, not him. He was grinning from ear to ear and looking rather proud of himself. In fact, it was in such a spot that he couldn't really see it with a mirror looking into a mirror, so I had to take my camera phone and take a photo of it so he could admire it in all of its glorious detail.

My precious son got his 2nd tattoo yesterday and what could I say? Well, nothing I can write here, but that's beside the point. It's not like I could ground him and besides, he didn't need my permission. He's 18 and for some strange reason when you're 18 and you've earned your own money and you take it into your head that you want permanent ink "art" (and I use that word loosely) installed somewhere on your person, you don't require your Mother's permission. Who made this rule up, I have no idea, but that's just the way it is. I am positive it wasn't a Mother who made that rule up. This much I know.

And to think of the argument he used to give me when I told him he was going to get a simple flu shot. You would have thought I was taking him to have a finger removed.

I remember how many times I rubbed oil and lotion and carefully examined his back for bumps, bruises or bug bites, and now there is this tattoo at the base of his neck. It's not particularly horrid looking. I guess as tattoos go, it's not a bad one. I just liked it better when it was just, well, plain skin. But of course, I'm just a Mom so what do I know anyway? There are 26 years and about a million or so memories between us.

So what did I do? Easy. I got some cotton and carefully blotted the "design" as he asked me to do.

I suppose I could have had a cow or something, but that wouldn't have made it magically disappear, and he worked hard for the $80 dollar price tag (I think they should have paid him!), and of course, I listened several times to how much it hurt and I don't doubt that it did. If he was looking for sympathy, I'm afraid he burst through the wrong room. But he is my son and I adore him, tattoo-tainted or not.

I have this hunch that plastic surgery is going to be a very lucrative business in about 10 or 20 years (or less), when all of these kids walking around are a little older and wiser and wondering what in the world they were thinking when they had some permanent symbol etched in their skin, and decide they'd rather it be removed. I don't know how they remove such a thing, and I'm sure that in the next few years the technique will be refined, but I would guess it will still be prohibitively expensive. Given how many kids I see sporting them, it's either going to be a long-term trend or there's going to be a lot of expensive superficial surgery going on.

I could be wrong. It may become THE thing to have at least three tattoos by the time you're the age I was when I brought Justin into the world. I have no idea and fortunately, it's not a pressing problem at this time. Right now, he's in "acquisition" mode and I can just imagine that when his sister, Katie, returns from NYC this weekend, she will examine it thoroughly, make a few remarks, and then probably make an appointment for her second one so that her brother won't be ahead of her.

Whatever happened to non-conformity? :-)

I think all of these non-conforming kids are doing exactly what everyone does at their age in the quest to be different and unique; they're doing the very same thing, just different designs. I used to think you practically had to be in the military to have a tattoo because the only ones I saw were on the arms of men who had been in the service, and they were almost always some sort of military-related object. I bet their Moms weren't so impressed when they came home sporting one, either. But I would imagine they didn't dwell on the displeasure they may have felt with seeing some picture on their kid's arm, because they were just so darn thankful to have their child, even if he was 22, back on terra firma. Safe and sound.

The way I look at it, I would have much preferred he use the $80 more constructively, like deposit it in his savings account, but he chose not to and even though he didn't ask for, nor does he require, that I respect his choice, I still do. That $80 could have gone for something that made far more sense to me, but likewise it could have gone for something much, much worse and more dangerous. When I think about all of the really scary stuff in this world he could have used that money for, his small tattoo doesn't look nearly as unattractive.

Besides, I know for sure I've done a thing or three that has made him shake his head in confusion. If I'm to get honest with myself, and believe me, this evening I'm going to take the Fifth and get REAL honest with myself, there are bigger fish to fry.

As far as Justin is concerned, I still think he's just about the most handsome 18 year old I have ever met, but then again, I am biased and I'm allowed to be. That's my boy...and he, along with his sister, without question are...two of the most amazing "love(s) of my life".

22 June 2005

Single...With Children: Publication Date: 22 June 2005

Single with Children: When their buttons are pushed, parents must recall who's in charge

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 06/22/05

It's every parents worst nightmare. A phone call at 2 a.m.

Of course, I was still up, as I usually am at the reasonable hour of 2 a.m. It's when I usually find my best writing groove. But even though I wasn't jarred out of a deep REM sleep, it's still never a good time for a phone call.

It usually means T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

"Ms. Parker?" a male voice inquired.

"Yes, can I help you?" realizing it wasn't a prank call, because pranksters don't usually address the object of their antics with such courtesy. The downside to this was the wave of panic as I instantly considered all of the possible reasons for a 2 a.m. phone call.

"This is Officer ... . I'm here with Justin."

If you're a parent, I don't need to tell you how adept we are at painting the most horrific scenarios in the span of what canít be more than a few seconds.

I'm sure I stumbled through an answer ... but whatever it was, a little part of me was dying inside.

"Justin is fine ... "I know that creating hysteria is never anyone's primary purpose, but this is a great way to BEGIN any phone call to the parent of a teenager. It may even prevent a few panic attacks.

"He's parked at the Dairy Queen, and it seems he's run out of gas and he said you would be happy to bring him enough to make it home."

What followed was the exact location of which Dairy Queen, along with the welcome calm that follows a heart attack in the making.

"Of course, Officer. Tell Justin we'll be right there."

Nothing more than the miscalculation of a gas gauge. Thank you, God.

Only then, after you are completely assured that your child is safe and well, do you launch into, "What was he thinking? Why did he cut it so close? Does he have ANY idea how scared I was to get an early morning phone call from a policeman?"

On some level, I'm sure he does, but I have to extend him the benefit of the doubt. He's never had kids - but maybe someday he will recall how the same situations occurred and scared the wits out of me as he deals with his own, clueless teenagers.

If he doesn't have the gift of recollection, I do hope that I am around to jog his memory.

When we arrived, Justin was mildly embarrassed but certainly grateful to be in receipt of a gas can. Of course, I quizzed him on what coursed through my mind when I received the phone call.

"Well, if I still had my cell phone, a policeman wouldnít have had to call you. But remember? You took that away a few months ago."

For a few seconds, I bought into his line of reasoning but I instantly shook it off.

I lobbed my response right back and reminded him why I was forced to remove his cell phone, along with the privileges that went along with it. Rare were the times it was used to give me updates and pertinent information.

I could see he regretted bringing the topic up, and he returned to his almost humble demeanor with a hint of gratitude that his fuel had been delivered with such speed.

I will be the first to admit I am a slow-study when it comes to remembering I have far more power than I have historically tried to exercise in creating boundaries, limits and eliciting acceptable behavior. It is a process I still struggle with.

Sometimes I just have to be reminded who is still in charge.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at SusieWrites@ec.rr.com, write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166 or visit her diary at www.susiewrites.blogspot.com.

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© The Amarillo Globe-News Online

17 June 2005

Katie on the train to Manhattan.

Originally uploaded by La Petite Mort.
See that steely-eyed determination in my daughter's eye? That's the look of someone who is taking life by storm, creating memories that will hopefully last a lifetime and serve her well, a reminder that she didn't simply exist, or always play it safe, but that she truly lived.

I only wish I was 21 again, and half as brave and full of spirit as my daughter. Katie, you rock!

I am very proud of you.

15 June 2005

"She'll Take Manhattan, And I'll Have The Root Canal, Please - Hold The Epinephrine!"

I waited...and I waited.

No phone calls. Traffic was miserable, according to every NYC Traffic-cam I could find on the web. Of course, when I would go to one of those traffic sites (auto-traffic, not web traffic), I would look through "eyes half open", because NYC can be a scary place, in terms of transportation and all of the things that can go wrong when 8 million people decide to call the same, relatively small piece of real estate home.

I paced. I drank another coke. I pretended to have my mind on other things, but I was absolutely unable to "dupe" myself. I'd jump on the rare instances that my cell phone rang yesterday afternoon, and slink back into my chair when caller ID revealed it was not my daughter ringing in. On the off chance she might be calling me from an ID mysteriously labeled "Unavailable", I even answered the calls that I normally never answer. Of course, it wasn't her.

I called my friend/confidant, who told me she was certain that everything was just fine. That Katie was probably out having fun, exploring, and was so overwhelmed with the sights, that she had slipped her mind that I might be mildly curious as to if she arrived safely and in one piece.

I scoffed at that notion. Katie often does a lot of really blond things, particularly with her hair recently re-enlightened, however the one thing she has always been consistently dependable about, is letting me know she was where she was scheduled to be, when she was scheduled to be there. She may not have always liked doing it, and I certainly haven't always liked where she might be calling me from, but she could be counted on to keep me posted, just the same.

No, I was absolutely certain something was amiss. Perhaps they had run out of gas on the George Washington Bridge? The Jersey Turnpike? The Holland Tunnel? My mind, however, by around 5:00 PM EST, went into full-blown, "this is so terrible I probably can't even imagine what has happened to my baby", panic mode. The clock was not my friend yesterday afternoon.

By 6:30, I was ready to call out the National Guard, the Marines at Camp Lejeune, NORAD, Interpol and anyone I knew with a Northern accent who might help me figure out where to start looking for my little, blond needle in a haystack.

In the middle of one phone conversation, I got a call waiting beep, and blessedly it was from Katie's cell phone and I heard her voice... for all of five seconds. "Mom, we're here in..." and then it cut off. Where, I wondered was "..."? At least I knew she was alive. That information alone was enough to return my heart to the lower triple digits. I went back into the line

It turns out she was in some town near Dover, New Jersey. They were staying at Chaundra's friend's home, the actress who also owns the Manhattan Property, in New Jersey and that plans had been a bit modified. The actress was flying to Italy tomorrow (today) with her fiancee, and so Katie and Chaundra were staying at the Jersey Home and would be relocating to the Manhattan residence on Thursday. Oh yes, and the reason that I hadn't heard from her before 6:30, was that this lovely actress, and I now know which one she is, and her fiancee had taken Katie and Chaundra out for a wonderful meal at some Indian restaurant. She called only after getting a few hours rest and returning from dinner, just in case I might be wondering where they were.

So let me get this straight; I am going out of my mind here in Wilmington, North Carolina, making a new trail in my relatively new carpet by pacing, wearing out my heart due to it's stress-induced accelerated racing, and she's out enjoying Indian cuisine with some celebrity? I went from wanting to hug her to wanting to strangle her in less than 60 seconds. What do you MEAN "in case I was wondering" where you girls were?

So I'm thinking - tell me you can't be that insane! What else would I be doing, imagining two young 21 year olds driving into Manhattan traffic - where it's ALWAYS rush hour and where road rage is a cabbies normal state of mind and business as usual. Please tell me you had a sudden case of unexpected episodic amnesia, or that all of the cell phone towers in Jersey were mysteriously inoperable for several hours, or even that you ran out of gas in the middle of some tiny town with really nice New Jersey folks who were more than happy to help you out, but couldn't provide you with a land line on which to call and let me know you were safe and sound, but do NOT tell me, don't even go there, that it never crossed your mind that I was home losing mine, because you hadn't called to let me know you were safe and well and not in some ditch or swimming with the fishes in the Hudson River.

I was grateful that she was safe and well-fed and hanging out with the rich and famous, but I was beyond irritated that she didn't consider that I might feel better knowing she was fine.

Oh please, throw me a freaking bone, why don't you?

What could I say? What I did say was that I would have appreciated knowing what I now knew, earlier. I was glad the Indian food was so tasty. I was happy the actress and her fiancee were so hospitable. I was more than relieved to learn they would be taking the train from Dover into Manhattan on Thursday, rather than attempting to drive. And of course, I thanked her for calling me and told her at least three times that I loved her and hoped she would have a great time.

My anger at being kept out of the loop wasn't nearly as potent as my angst when considering all of the things that could have gone wrong, but thanks be to God, didn't. All I wanted was to know she was OK. Even if it was a few hours later than I had hoped, I was still way beyond grateful.

It's so amazing how wonderful everything looks, feels and smells after the worry has waned. I ordered a spinach salad, sweet iced tea and was, as Shawn Colvin sings, "living in color, laughing out loud", from a song appropriately titled, "Round of Blues". But I noticed that my upper left molar, the one with the crown that I broke a year and a half ago; the same one the dentist put a temporary repair on because I had to leave town the next day, started feeling...strange. Not so much painful, as swollen.

By the end of dinner, the roof of my mouth on that same side felt much larger than the other side and that's how I usually know that I am about to enter dental distress. I was looking at either a sinus infection or a seriously infected tooth that would, no doubt, require a root canal. Though I would welcome neither prospect, I could afford the sinus infection because I have a stash of antibiotics that I was supposed to take for my mid-spring episode of bronchitis. If I'm not living right and it turns out to be the infected tooth/root canal waiting to happen, I will be looking at a minimum of $600 and probably more like $900, because I don't usually do anything halfway, and without at least a few complications.

So there I sat with a cracked dental crown that wants a new tiara. I don't have the funds set aside for a dental debacle. I can't afford to repair it and I can't afford not to. I hate it when I don't like what's behind door number ONE and door number TWO, and there's NEVER a door number THREE - the one that holds the winning lotto ticket, or attorney telling you that you were named in the will of some distant, recently deceased, richer than God relative that you didn't even know you had, but knew who you were and left you about $50,000. No, make it $20,000. I don't want to appear greedy.

And yet, given that I could still be waiting for a phone call from my wanderlust daughter, I'll take this tooth tragedy and smile doing it. I hate root canals. I'd almost rather give birth than experience another root canal, because frankly, my oral surgeon, though technically competent, has the personality of a potted plant, but not quite as engaging. He divided my last root canal up into two parts - shot me full of novacaine laced with epinephrine, unannounced, which sent my heart rate and BP toward epic heights, and made the understated remark that I seemed to be "a little more sensitive than normal" to stimulants.

Gee, you think? Could that be why I broke out in hives and nearly came out of my chair? How many weeks were you in dental school Dr. Darko and I had NO IDEA that Devry Institute now offered courses in endodontics.

I just don't have time for pulp fiction.

I'm generally pleasant, particularly to people wielding sharp, shiny instruments about my mouth, but I came up out of that chair and told him in no uncertain terms that he was NEVER to even entertain the thought of infusing me with anything epinephrine-related. Ever. He made no further remark, shrugged his shoulders and gave me a prescription for two Halcion to be taken one hour before my next visit the following week. That was probably the kindest cut of all.

Conscious sedation. It was a win/win situation.

If it does turn out to be a root canal in the making, I may very well have the great misfortune of being under his "care", and I use that term loosely because he basically behaved as if he couldn't possibly care less, but maybe Wilmington has added new skilled sadists, in the time that has passed since June 2002, and there may possibly be an endodontist in possession of that rare trifecta: skill, kindness and compassion. I'm afraid I'll be finding out in the next few days.

What a time for Uncle Sam's (AKA my ever so undependable, incommunicado ex-husband) five months late check to turn into rubber.

When it rains, it simply gets more humid. There's a heat advisory issued for today, with heat indices hitting around the 109 degree mark. I think I'm going to find something funny to read while I wait for this Advil and benadryl to take effect.

The days are just packed...and with any bad luck at all, my mouth will probably be packed as well...with cotton and all manner of pain-inducing paraphenalia.

I dearly hope that no one reminds me to "have a great day!", today in some faux, perky, Katie Couric, over-caffeinated delivery . I just can't handle perky today.

Tonight, after the sun calms down, I need:

A walk on Wrightsville Beach.
A meeting on Wrightsville Beach.
A large iced tea with lemon.
Coffee, definitely some coffee.
Oh yeah, and I need a BREAK!

Not necessarily in that particular order.

Peace out.

14 June 2005

"Somewhere Between Wilmington and NYC Is A Little Place I Like To Call INSANITY!"

Setting: My office, Wilmington, NC
Time: 2:15 PM EST

(Phone rings in ringtone assigned to my daughter)

"Where are you??", I demand, dispensing with the time-wasting but courteous and customary, "hello?"

"I'm in New Jersey.", she says, sounding like someone who has been awake all night, probably because she's been awake all night.

"You were in New Jersey when you called me this morning at 7:30 AM. You're still in New Jersey?", I ask, recalling my grasp of geography and noting that, geographically speaking, New Jersey isn't all that big.

"I KNOW Mother. We stopped off to take a nap around 10:30. The cell phone is dying and I have to go. I'll call you when we get there.", sounding even more annoyed.

"When do you think you'll be there?", I ask, realizing I might as well asked if she knew the square root of 724.

"Soon Mother. I'll call you. I have to GO now. Great, my bag just broke."

"But where are you exactly? What part of New Jersey?"

"Northern New Jersey."

"Are you at someone's house?"

"Yes. I have to go now. I'll call you later. Cell phone is going now."

End of conversation.

We zoom in on me sitting back in my office chair, rubbing my temples, head down, trying to calculate just how many hours this little joy ride to NYC is taking off my life, in terms of time spent worrying - over something I have absolutely no control over.

My daughter Katie, and her best friend, Chaundra, left Wilmington last night, after work, to drive to Manhattan. Chaundra is house-sitting for a friend in Manhattan for 7 days, and she invited Katie to join her. Apparently this house belongs to the actress who played the youngest daughter in the film, "Mrs. Doubtfire", and she is flying off to Italy to get married.

Of course, my daughter, though she's been to Paris, London, Manchester, several cities in Ireland, having lived there as an au pair a couple of years ago, has never been to New York City. You know, New York City, the place where they make wannabe picante sauce that makes the folks at Pace, in Paris, (the one in Texas) see red. Jalapeno, red.

Katie jumped at the chance to see the Big Apple. She's always wanted to see NYC. She already loves it and she's never even been there. I wonder if she will really love it as much after she actually sees, smells, feels, hears and touches it in person? I'm not so sure. Katie hates crowds. She hates heights. She's not fond of loud, or constant, noise. Katie despises traffic..."with the fire of a thousand suns!".

It's about the traffic. At least for me it is. That what is causing me the most angst at this moment.

I've only been to NYC once, and my visit wasn't even 48 hours long. I was supposed to fly into La Guardia, but the plane got diverted to that garden spot of the garden state, Newark. I stayed in the Hilton near Times Square, walked a few blocks, had a picnic and rode the merry-go-round in Central Park, visited a few shops, bought the t-shirt from a street vendor, bought my dad a pipe at some huge tobacco shop, visited the top of the Empire State Building, didn't find Tom Hanks and flew back to Raleigh two nights later. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, either.

I expected to feel claustrophobic because of the tall buildings and swarms of people, but I didn't feel that way at all. I can't say people were friendly, at least not by my southern definition of friendly, but they certainly weren't rude, either. I didn't encounter anyone being inordinately offensive. The cab drivers were scary and I didn't understand much of anything they said, which worked out fine since they didn't talk much, unless you count the obscenities, at least the ones I recognized, hurled at other drivers.

Why won't my cell phone ring? I wish I could simply WILL it to ring. All I want is one 30 second phone call, "Mom, we're here, Everything is fine. Yes, the doors are locked. Talk to you soon. Love you."

I must tell you, that the thought of Katie and Chaundra driving into, and around, midtown Manhattan, is enough to send my stomach into bigger flips than I execute in the pool. I am way past butterflies. There are pelicans careening about in my stomach and inching up toward my chest.

The good news is that Chaundra is a New England Native/Yankee, and I say this with affection and maybe even a sense of admiration - that people survive the weather, population and chaos. So I am certain that since Chaundra, who moved to Wilmington last October from Boston, is accustomed to the driving practices of folks north of the Mason-Dixon line, she knows how to handle herself, the traffic and her car. I remind myself of that fact about every 4 minutes, and it quiets down the pelicans for about 20 - 30 seconds. Do you know how wide the wingspan of a pelican is? (90 inches, I just looked it up). No wonder it feels huge.

Since I woke up this morning at around 7:00 AM, I have consumed a pot of coffee, two iced teas and now I am working on my second coke, something I never drink except in times of serious stress. I don't even care that much for coke, unless it's with popcorn and a Jimmy Stewart movie. But for some reason, I turn to it when I can't make sense of my world and, right now, the only thing I know for sure, is that my daughter is in Northern New Jersey, about to descend on Manhattan, and I dearly hope and pray, repeatedly and with every fiber of my being, every cell in my marrow and every string in my heart, that when those two girls begin driving into the city, God will direct their car and protect them from those aggressive cab drivers and trucks and buses and who knows what else?

I am scared. I am nervous. I can usually hold it together pretty well, but right now, I am wanting so much for my cell phone to ring again and to hear that they are safely where they are supposed to be, the car is parked, they are in the apartment, brownstone, condo, whatever, and the doors are locked, several times over, as are the windows. I want to know they are fine. I want to know they are fine. I want to shoo these pelicans out of my stomach and turn my attention to other stressors because nothing is as stressful as knowing your children are far from home, regardless of their age, and wanting nothing more in this world than for them to be safe.

I know, I know, they, "...want to be a part of it, New York, New York...if they can make it there...", I will be one thankful, grateful, blessed and ever so relieved...mother.

Until then, I am not letting this cell phone out of my sight. Between staring at it, praying, checking NYC traffic and weather conditions, and clicking on NY Local news, I'm staying pretty busy. While Katie and Chaundra are driving into New York City, I am driving myself completely insane. I don't even need a map for that. I've made that trip more times than I care to count. It seems to be getting shorter every time I make it.

09 June 2005

Single...With Children: Publication Date: 8 June 2005

Susie Parker

Single with Children: Life's bumps taken for granted by some, craved by others

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 06/08/05

I'll never forget the look of disbelief and joy on my son's face when he took the keys to his shiny, black Mustang a couple of years ago.

With a generous contribution from his grandparents, we arranged to have it in our driveway, cleaned up, detailed and sporting a HUGE red ribbon. Justin was about to become the proud owner of a car he had his sights set on from the time he was even aware that cars existed.

Switch into another gear two years later. Teenage boys grow up, and though he will probably always sport a Mustang heart, his goals have changed. With graduation, the taste of independence is beckoning, and two weeks ago he secured a full-time job to meet his growing expenses. Dreams of sharing an apartment with a couple of best friends requires money, and as he was told way back when he was 16, things like car insurance, gas and maintenance would be transferred, along with the title of his dream car.

Justin heard the sound of opportunity knocking, but it was holding hands with responsibility and some hard choices had to be made. While he was fortunate in securing a job that pays slightly more than minimum wage, he's learning paychecks don't always cover expenses.

Clearly, the price of driving a Mustang would preclude any plans of moving out and finding his own place. No matter what we're led to believe, there are times you simply can't have it all.

With a heavy heart, he sold the shiny, ultra-accessorized Mustang and now finds himself behind the wheel of a much more humbling conveyance with many years and even more mileage.

It's hardly a car that would turn anyone's head and the only statement it makes when it arrives is: "Wow, that beat-up thing actually made the trip."

The good news is the taxes and insurance are well below the stratospheric amounts that came with owning and maintaining a car that did turn heads and render anyone within earshot temporarily deaf.

I expected at least a few days of mourning - of bemoaning the cruel fate of approaching adulthood and the unfairness of life in general. Sometimes it's a fine thing to be proven completely wrong.

Justin burst into the house a couple of days ago holding the leather cover of a checkbook, the stub from his first paycheck and the wide grin of accomplishment.

He had stopped by the bank, opened a checking and a savings account and divided his earnings into both. He was beaming as he told me how much he was saving by downsizing.

What a huge life lesson: this business of sacrifice and independence. It follows us every step of the way until we run out of breath.

Every day I visit the special Web site of a young lady who possesses that grit and who knows more than any young lady should have to about steely resolve.

Her goal is a little more imposing than gaining post-high school independence.

Her focus involves the day when she won't have to be tethered to an IV with plastic bags of controlled poison that will hopefully help her reach the age where she has to make a few "tough" choices. It's not so much a question of what she wants to be when she grows up - she just wants the chance to grow up.

There are moments when it's the parent who needs a lesson in perspective.

Some moms and dads pray for the chance to see their kids grow up and experience the ups, downs and garden-variety harried moments that inspire gray hair and worry wrinkles - some of that "normal" brand of angst the rest of us take for granted.

John Wooden once said, "Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

Many families dealing with kids in the grips of a catastrophic illness live that sentiment on a day-to-day basis.

If you're interested in learning more about a young lady from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who already has a cult following in many parts of Texas, take a look at the site of one Miss Julianna Banana: http://www2.caringbridge.org/canada/julianna/.

If you have the time, sign her guest book and check out the Pink Wish Bracelet Hall of Fame.

It would be nice to see some Amarillo names on her Web site "wall of fame" and to give the town of Pflugerville a little friendly Texas competition.

I'd love nothing more than for her parents, Mary and Terry, to have to deal with a few late nights pacing the floor as Julianna sneaks in 15 minutes past her curfew.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at SusieWrites@ec.rr.com, write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166 or visit her diary at www.susiewrites.blogspot.com.

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© The Amarillo Globe-News Online

06 June 2005

The Days Are Flying By...

"...Isn't it mysterious how so many wonderful things in life come to us seemingly without our planning? We start traveling down one street, and we find ourselves interested in something we never expected on a side street; and as we explore it, the side street becomes the main road for us."

"...Who we are in the present includes who we were in the past." ~ Fred Rogers

"L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." ~ From "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Wow, THREE QUOTES! I'm feeling very sentimental. I sometimes foolishly swear that I am not at all sentimental, but the friends who know me best, the ones who see past my silly pronouncement and who have peeked beneath the surface, know that I am more given to sentimentality than I might be comfortable "owning". Most of the time they allow me to pretend the facade and for that I am grateful.

It's always struck me that there's something vulnerable in being sentimental about things. I guess, in my strange perspective, that to admit such a thing is to lay open one's heart and, for me at least, that has felt like risky business. I think going through my divorce back in 1997 had a great deal to do with that. Maybe I was sentimental before I was divorced. I know for sure that I was the poster girl for naivete!

In a weird kind of way, given that it has been EIGHT YEARS since the official dissolution of my first, and only, marriage, I tend to divide my life into "pre-" and "post-" divorce periods of time, but the truth is that I can't really remember what it was like being married; Let me rephrase that - I can't remember what it's like to be in a happy, functioning marriage. I don't honestly feel like I've ever truly been married, not in the positive, rich sense of the word and that's not to say that my almost 17 years of wedded...well, of being married, was a negative or horrible experience. Good things happened during the period between November 26, 1980 and October 25, 1997. Two wonderful things to come from that relationship go by the name of Katie and Justin. I can't imagine not having had that experience and I wouldn't trade being their Mom for all the tea in China, even though now and again they love to test my resolve and limits! I'm told that's their job and if it is, they're impressively successful.

I don't remember so much about "pre-" divorce, other than the fact that we moved a lot and that was fun because it was always great living and exploring different parts of the US, always making new friends and keeping up with the old ones. We traveled quite a bit. The kids grew up and my ex-husband and I grew apart. Things just didn't end well, which probably explains the divorce part.

I proceeded to spend the next 7 years making up for all of the dating I never really did before I was married at the much too tender age of 20, and I have always talked a lot of hoping to find the right person to finally feel safe enough to feel married to, but I never honestly got close. I didn't avoid getting engaged though. In fact, I seemed to do that very well. It was the following through part that I had trouble with. It is pure Providence that I never followed through.

The past 18 months of my life have been an amazing period filled with pain, acceptance, growth, excitement, fear, apprehension, warmth, more acceptance (Page 417 - BB 4th Edition), peace, laughter and, as it turns out, unbelievable surprises. Each one of those experiences have been necessary components to bring me to this place I find myself today. At the time I was feeling my way through some of those difficult twists, turns and hurdles, I couldn't imagine how anything good might be on the other side. It can never be overstated that pain is a marvelous motivator. It definitely catches our attention like nothing else. That's a good thing, but that's the last thing you want to hear when you're right in the middle of it, gritting your teeth and ready to scream.

There have been moments when things felt pretty hopeless, fearing that I would be relegated to living the rest of my life hidden under some suffocating cloak of stoicism. I never wanted to be stoic. I think I'd rather be miserable than stoic. Stoic kind of hints that, while things probably won't get any worse, it doesn't appear as if they will get any better. When you're only 43, that could mean you have quite a bit of time remaining to live in some kind of self-imposed torpor.

Fred Rogers was so on target in that first quote. The side street, after a lot of fun exploration, became the main road. I couldn't have planned that if I tried. It kind of reminds me of Paris. I always thought the real charm of that incredible city was the small, narrow streets, much more so than the Champes-Ellyses. The treasures in life really do hide in the most unexpected places.

Susie Parker
Wilmington, NC