Kind of a Love Story About My Two Oldest Geniuses


NEW: You can listen to the blog post!
Small black and white photo of me with caption: Me, giving us ALL the do better look.
Me, giving us ALL the “do better” look.

I wish there would have been some kind of universal understanding from teachers and education systems like the mother in the story below when I was a kid in school. I’m still that kid in an adult body, really. (Just ask anyone who has had to be on Zoom calls with me this past year or so during this pandemic!) Thankfully, my mother had a great understanding of who I was. The story reminds me so much of two of my kids, Nate and Ben (for different reasons). They’re grown now, by the way. Nate was exactly this kid, and Ben was not a cookie cutout for learning well inside of the normal school box. Their other younger brother and sister, Josh and Jaz, special, glorious, beautiful, and geniuses in their own ways, operated differently and more easily inside the common structures of our school systems.

I should point out here that these are the observations of a mother, not their own observations or anyone else’s – just from a mama who wished for a world where her children could “just” belong in their completeness, perfection, and just absolute delicious individuality. I’ll never stop wishing and working to have that for them, my grandchildren… for ALL of us.

A photo of a smiling Nate with his daughter, and her arms are wrapped around his neck while she kisses him on the cheek.
Nate, getting loved on by his daughter, Milani, during recovery from an accident at work.

Nate was literally always looking around, as was mentioned very often by his teachers, “daydreaming,” they said. They didn’t understand that he was doing his best to problem-solve things at home and the woes of the entire world. They didn’t understand or see him trying to grow strong and broad shoulders, and the pressures he felt to do so.

They didn’t see what his individual genius was, and some still don’t.

They didn’t see that he was the one playing with the kids no one else wanted to play with because they were different in some way, always caring about them, protecting and defending them. We had our fair share of appointments in the school office because he chose to defend the kids that were getting picked on, and it mostly left him wondering why that was a problem and why no one was doing that for him at school, too. (Y’all know his mama was in that office though!)

He was (is) always aware of his surroundings, oftentimes with more attention paid to that than what was sometimes in front of his nose. I guess it’s no surprise that he became a firefighter and paramedic. His observing is oft times greatly mistaken for being unaware, not listening, not caring, not trying hard enough. It’s such a hugely inaccurate conclusion. I guess that must be the easiest conclusion to make. 🤷🏻‍♀️❓ (Do better here, folks.) Trust me, he knows more than he lets on and more than you think. He always has.

His empathy runs as deep as his feelings. If he’s quiet, he is learning and observing, or he just doesn’t trust you or your judgment and might even think you’re full of shit – and he’s right – a lot. He has always had a deep well of forgiveness that is long-standing that even I at times have a hard time comprehending. This is another misunderstood piece about him that people sometimes mistake for weakness — another ridiculous societal “norm.”

A picture of Ben standing on a lookout point of Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California, filming the view.
Ben, on a recent mother/son trip enjoying and appreciating the sights and sounds above Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California.

Ben would look around, trying to find the deeper information, thinking about the next thing. It would annoy some of his teachers, so I had to let them know sometimes that he was two steps ahead of them already and had lost interest, and on several occasions that they weren’t challenging him enough, giving him the space to expand his mind in the way that he needed to, and that it was they who should try harder to keep up with him.

They didn’t see what his individual genius was, and some still don’t.

There came a point when his father, grandparents and I finally realized that the boxed-in culture of most schooling and the organizational skills taught were not a fit for him. Once we gave that up and gave him room for his own system for accomplishing and finishing things, it was better for all of us! One time I was discussing this with a friend, and he said, “Is he in Special Ed?” (💭 Wait, what? 😳) You see, this is the filters so many of us operate through, tragically, and we end up othering the children we should be learning from. (Again, I repeat, do better, folks!) I said, “Yes, actually, he’s in the Baccalaureate program at his high school…
(💭you f’ing idiot)!”

Ever-curious, ever-seeking new information and understanding about the world around him and the people involved, it’s no surprise that he grew up to be a scientist of the Earth (geology) and has deep feelings about and for the people that reside on it. He will say the “hard things” about various institutionalized and systemic oppressions without regret. When he loves you, it’s probably forever, though the depth may vary and you may not realize it. He is bigger in spirit and intelligence than his physical stature, which is often way underestimated by many because of judgmental societal expectations about how big and tall men need to be. (Lorrrrrdy, we have so much to get better about!)


Imagine the world we would have if we allowed space for individuals to be seen perfect and whole just as they are with all of their natural gifts.


Meme in red and black letters stating "Let your children be who they are. If they don't fit the prefab mold, they are here for a greater purpose. Every child has his/her/their own genius inside."
❤️ Let your children be who they are. If they don’t fit the prefab mold, they are here for a greater purpose. Every (E-V-E-R-Y) child has his/her/their own genius inside. ❤️

Here is the passage which had me write my content above:
My daughter handed me her school progress report. Although it displayed a steady stream of positive check marks, there was one check mark standing dejectedly alone from the rest.

“How am I doing, Mom?” my child asked with a level of maturity that did not match the small dishevelled person gazing up at me with smudged eyeglasses that teetered on the tip of her nose. With her small finger, she pointed to her teacher’s neatly printed words next to the lone check mark.

It read, “Distracted in large groups.” But I already knew this. I knew this long before it was written on an official report card. Since she was a toddler, this child has offered astute observations of the world around her.

After pointing out all the positives on the progress report, I told her what was written. Upon hearing the news, she gave a tiny, uncertain smile and shyly admitted, “I do look around a lot.”

But before my child could feel one ounce of shame, one iota of failure, I came down on bended knee and looked her straight in the eye. I didn’t want her to just hear these words, I wanted her to feel them. This is what I said:

“Yes. You do look around a lot. You noticed Sam sitting off by himself with a skinned knee on the field trip, and you comforted him.”

“You noticed Banjo had a running nose, and the vet said it was a good thing we brought him in when we did.”

“You noticed our waitress was working really hard and suggested we leave an extra good tip. You noticed Grandpa was walking slower than the rest of us so you waited for him.”

“You notice the beautiful view every time we cross the bridge to go to swim practice.”

“And you know what? I don’t ever want you to stop noticing because that is your gift. It is your gift that you give to the world.”

As I watched my daughter beam with the glow of acceptance, I realized her approach to life had the power to change the world.

You see, we are all just waiting for someone to notice—notice our pain, notice our scars, notice our fear, notice our joy, notice our triumphs, notice our courage.

And the one who notices is a rare and beautiful gift.

*Author Unknown*

Wooden structure with the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh printed on it: Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
Love in such a way that the person you love feels free.

It’s a System and I Take It Personal

I know you might find me confounding and even exasperating at times. I know you may not understand (or care) why my voice is so loud and my energy so explosive.  It’s possible that you think I don’t handle things appropriately, whatever that means to you, and I’m sure some of you think I do too much and others think I don’t do enough. It is what it is. I’m sure I could use some balance.  I am sure of a lot of things, and I am sure that I will not apologize for any of this. I appreciate the truth in matters, even when it forces me to change direction or it makes some “side” look bad and it doesn’t feel good. I may not always get it right, but I know I get it wrong less. I am a human being first, and a mother second, but the second feels like my most important job. Like most people I am a lot of other things as well – hooks and edges, bumps and curves, questions and answers, some broken parts – but both of those pieces, human and mother, drive me the most.  What I want for my family is nothing less than I would wish for yours, but NEVER at the EXPENSE of the LIVES of mine. 

Can You Believe How Much I Know?

Or: Why My 50’s Are So Smart

Or: Now that I Know So Much I Know How Much I Don’t Know

Or: I’m Highly Qualified to Know this Stuff; I’m Over 50!

Now that I am past the halfway point of my fifties (LORDY!), I feel mature enough and qualified enough to speak on these things. Here is what makes our fifties so interesting to me and other stuff I’ve figured out:

  1. Feeling instantaneously compelled to take layers of clothing off due to a sudden rise in internal body temperature.
  2. Feeling instantaneously compelled to put layers of clothing back on due to a sudden return of normal internal body temperature.
  3. Feeling homicidal about anyone who thinks they are going to change the thermostat.
  4. Feeling justified about feeling homicidal towards the thermostat hijacker.
  5. When I say that I don’t care what people think, I mean it literally, not like when I said it when I was in my thirties as a spite.
  6. Watching the evolutionary process of being an older parent with adult children as if I am some kind of an outsider to it.
  7. Realizing on so many occasions that my children are just plain smarter than me, and possibly than I ever was at their ages.
  8. Having friends that I have known for half a century or more.
  9. No longer feeling guilt or compelled to hold on to family members that are chaotic, unkind, and disruptive just because they are family, and having the certainty that it is the healthy thing to do.
  10. Not being sure how to do something, then figuring it out, then forgetting how I did it for the next time, and just not caring that I forgot and I now have to ask one of the kids and we’re going to laugh about it – even though it’s likely they’re laughing at me.
  11. Yeah, I know some of these are run-on and incomplete sentences. And guess what… I don’t care about that either!
  12. The thought I had when my grandkids were born that I should have just skipped the kids and gone to the fun part of being a grandparent, except now I know that I wouldn’t be the kind of Gram I am without raising those fabulous parents first.
  13. The realization that if someone doesn’t value me, then they either aren’t paying attention or they are missing something in themselves.
  14. Though my fifty-something body may not be in the strong shape my twenty-something body was, my mind and heart are stronger than ever in my resolve to be a co-creator of a world that works for everyone.
  15. Wasting time looks different to different people.
  16. Slow the f#€k down.
  17. You have to look at the stars, and the sunrises, and the sunsets whenever possible. You may not get another one.
  18. Barefoot is good — unless you are going to put them on the dashboard or window of the car. That’s just gross. Walking barefoot on the Earth is grounding. Besides being gross, the other one will get your knees shoved through your face if you get into an accident.
  19. Take care of your feet. Wash them, for God’s sake. Don’t let your nails get gross and your feet get crusty. It’s not just gross, it’s unhealthy.
  20. Don’t be the reason the person you live with feels lonely.
  21. It’s easy to take the people that care about us and/or we care about for granted, but it’s not okay.
  22. Be fearless. Say yes to things that scare you or have you stopped.
  23. Get tattoos if you like them, no matter what your dad might say.
  24. It really doesn’t matter if someone’s pants sag. What matters is when you think you are better because yours don’t.
  25. If you can look the other way when someone is cheating or being deceitful, you are an accomplice.
  26. Don’t let past regrets stop you. You have them because you are supposed to do better next time. That is the lesson from regrets.
  27. I don’t for a second believe that everything happens for a reason.
  28. I do 100% believe that there is a lesson to be found in everything.
  29. When someone is talking to you, acknowledge them, and act like what they are saying is of the utmost importance. They are giving themselves to you.
  30. As a parent, tell your kids when you could have done better with them, even if it is decades later.
  31. I think most often most people do the very best they can. But don’t let that be an excuse to keep a terrible person around or excuse their poor behavior and choices. Sometimes someone’s very best may still not be a good fit for you.
  32. Don’t think for one minute that you always know more than your children. At any age, child or grown, we should be learning from them.
  33. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to keep them around. It can; but it’s possible it can also mean “thank you for showing me who you are and where you belong.”
  34. It is the job of our youth to challenge our ideals. Each generation co-creates the world for the next generation. We fall short only because we don’t realize in the moment that it is all going to change, and that is the way of things. If you are ridiculing their ideas, that says a whole lot about you and nothing about them. Remember, we raised them and we brought them up in a world whose systems were created before us and also by us. And what did we do?
  35. We do see the color of people’s skin. Color blindness is only a real thing when you’re talking about the genetic disorders. Claiming color blindness when talking about another person is not actually honoring the person of color as you might think. It is actually dismissing a part of them that is worthy of being seen. It is dismissive and indicates you are not willing to dive past the surface to be not only inclusive of our differences, but it assumes that assimilation is key to equality. It is not. What you are actually blind to is your own privilege that you walk around in without seeing that either. You may think that by ignoring the color of another’s skin that you are making a dent in racism. You are doing the exact opposite.
  36. People of color are not here to do all the educating for you on inclusion and what it’s like to be a person of color.  
  37. When someone tells you their experience and it’s different from yours, they are still right.
  38. Teach your kids to read books, not screens.
  39. I am never bored. EVER.
  40. When someone mistreats you; that is who they are. There’s no reason under the sun to let them continue.
  41. When someone tells you something about yourself that’s hard to hear, HEAR it, and move forward accordingly.
  42. Don’t let someone talk you out of your dreams or convince you that you’re not worthy of them — big or small.
  43. It’s okay to be mad. In fact, sometimes we should be mad.
  44. It’s not okay to hurt someone because you’re mad.
  45. Therapy. Do it.
  46. You don’t have to do things like your parents. 
  47. Do NOT live vicariously through your children. You will be in their way.
  48. Children are not tiny adults, and you are a parent first and always; then sometimes you can be their friend, too. When they are grown then you can be friends, and before you know it they will slowly take over, and they may need to.  It’s that middle part that’s the sweet stuff, and if you cultivate it, they won’t mind having to take over at some point, and you will trust them to.
  49. Don’t let anyone interfere between you and your children. That should remain an indivisible bond.
  50. We all need quiet time.
  51. Your kids do NOT need to be busy all the time.
  52. Alone is not lonely.
  53. Suspicion breeds suspicion.
  54. Trust. Don’t screw it up. 
  55. Cuss if you want to. 
  56. Go out of your way to get to know people that don’t look like you or sound like you. You’ll NEVER be sorry.
  57. Embrace the frizz.
  58. Tinkerbell is real.
All in

Being A Mama ;

My middle son graduates with his
B.S. in Geology in 2 weeks.

(Photographer: Jessica Verone)

Outside Inside My White Skin

An Invitation and a Challenge

Yep, here I go again!  Buckle up!

Yes, the timeout is first!

Before I continue and dig into what I am really here to say today, let me take a timeout and acknowledge the elephants of the day in the room — first, the horrific terrorist mass murder in Charleston, SC a few days ago.  Here is my simple statement on that and all the blind rhetoric flying around: Every act of violence is NOT a mental illness. Crazy… likely. But a TRUE mental ILLNESS, no! Face it, some people are just blinded and ruled by hate. Hate (fear in an ugly, dangerous form) will make us do crazy things! Stop making excuses for scum because it makes you feel better.  I am proud of the people that are willing to forgive, and I wish for the day when I can also feel that way.  I am working on it.  Currently, I hope that little murdering flea and his ilk rot in Hell… s l o w l y.

Next, is Rachel Dolezal, the woman who was a local President of an NAACP chapter who is a white woman that attempted to be black… or as one of my sons said, acting in blackface. For the sake of space and time to read, let me just say that she has unfortunately made herself and her just causes a non-issue.  I can’t know what her deep, true motivations are that caused her to perpetrate this lie, so I won’t even touch it.  I feel sad.  I feel sad that she did some good things under a lie, and she did some other things that are contradictory to what she says her cause is.  Someone in an article postulated that she probably did it out of being tired of not being heard because of her white skin.  I actually totally get that – in real time!  However, I am white and I can sympathize, use my brain and heart to see and feel, to reason, and even to empathize in some ways.  But at the end of the day, well the beginning, too… I am white and I don’t and won’t attempt to pretend otherwise. I hope she comes to one day.  As for her family, they are suspect in my eyes.  WHAT family throws their daughter under the bus as they did, regardless of what she’s done? What a bunch of losers.

The Confederate Flag needs to be taken down and put into the annals of “things that are just wrong in our history and other losers.”  If you think it should remain up because “it’s a piece of our history,” you are lying and I am calling you out on that.  I won’t even get into how streets, buildings, and other public and government properties are named after Confederate figures.  Yes, it’s a piece of our history, but so is murdering innocent indigenous peoples, no seatbelts, banning Filipinos from entering the country, women and blacks being prohibited from voting, segregation, etc., etc., etc!  You get my point.  And if you are one of those that wishes those days back, then YOU need to leave this country, not me.  Next!

Now, here’s the meat for today.

In my experience in my skin, rarely does anyone want to hear this white woman’s thoughts about the struggle for and by black people in this country.  There are white people that roll their eyes or check out when I talk about my thoughts, and there are black people that think I don’t have a clue and think that my thoughts on the subject are meaningless.  Waaaaaaay back when I was a school kid, there were others that thought I wanted to be black (As if!), and they gave me a terrible time about it.  What these idiots didn’t realize was that they were only assisting me in my ideals that there was something wrong.  Thanks!  I hope some of you have become more enlightened since then.  And no, I haven’t forgotten who you are.

I have more than a simple vested interest in the treatment of black people in this country.  A large part of my family is not white, and a very large portion of that is black.  I am a part of this multicultural, multiracial family, and they will always be a part of me, who I am, and how I think.  I love my family and am proud of it, just as I am sure you love yours and are likewise proud.  Your disinterest in what I have to say, your scoffing at my personhood and my knowledge and feelings, your racial brush-off to me translates that you think that somehow my children are less important to me than your children are to you.  Read that last sentence again; I suspect a few of you digested it incorrectly the first time.  It also means that somehow I have lived on this Earth for 50+ years and have spent it with my head in the sand, and my heart in my sequestered white ego.  First, let me bulldoze that pile and let you know that nothing is further from the truth. Next let me save you the personal time of denying it.  You haven’t realized that is what your dismissal means, but that is what it means whether you admit it or not, whether you want to examine it or not.  I learned a very long time ago that my kids and I are on a particular island that not many really care to visit.  Whatever color your own skin, if you think this is solely a “black” issue, then you are not only a part of the problem, you are ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTING to the problem.

As for the next person that says “Slavery ended 150 years ago; get over it!”, well you can go crawl in your teeny tiny dark corner and just rot away, because you are a waste of precious oxygen on this planet.  Are you really that NARROW MINDED, that BLIND, that UNAWARE that you think unfair treatment and practices (and much worse) ended with slavery?  WAKE UP!  If you want to know why black people hate, distrust, or are afraid of the police and other people in power, just research OUR AMERICAN HISTORY!  Someone said to me the other day, “But why do they run when they are stopped by the police?”  Now this is not a dumb question.  If you have not had the experience of a black person, have not been exposed to the experiences of a black person, AND you don’t have family that can tell you stories handed down of decades of abuse in an effort to warn you about these abuses, then I expect you really do not know.  However, what I would hope is that we can ALL have a listening ear and heart when someone (anyone!) is speaking on their experiences.  By the way, thank you to that person who heard what I said about that question.

My reasons for anything and everything worthwhile.  9/2011

My personal rainbow. And this is only part of my family and wonderful people
I choose to surround myself!  🙂   9/2011

Those that cannot or refuse to admit how things really are in this country are just afraid to.  You are afraid to admit it because you think it will mean something personal about you, your actual person, your family.  You may be right if that is the way you feel, if you take it that personally.  Do you want to know the best way to stop feeling like that?  Step OUT of your tired skin and make a difference for your fellow human beings.  You would do it for your own family!  Have you forgotten that we are ALL of the human RACE?

The human race is the ONE and ONLY true RACE, by the way.  Race, as a category, is a man-made concept.  Yep!  Go research it.  I am not going to hold your hand on this one.  WE MADE THIS SHIT UP!  There is no biological, scientific backing for separating us into color categories.  NONE.  It serves only to separate us.  That is it!  Well done, wouldn’t you say?

With that said, I am here to tell you that it is, however, important that we do recognize each other’s race at this time in our history.  It speaks to the essence of who we are individually, where we have been, our probable life experiences, AND it does NOT define us in totality.  Confused yet?  Color blindness does not serve anyone, and is a myth anyway.  It is a way of pretending that “I don’t see who you are and it doesn’t matter.”  The melting pot is just something we throw people into that tries to melt others into what “we” want them to be, to assimilate into our own ideas.  I would rather have a salad chock full of all the flavors that you can see and taste individually that are wonderful each on their own, and are just as wonderful when thrown in together.  Yes, I’m laughing at my corny self right now, but that is really how I feel.

If you are feeling injury right about now and are making this monologue mean that I don’t like white people, that I’m abandoning my own (Yes, I’ve heard all this before.), that I’m prejudiced or racist against white people, that I don’t care about the bad things that happen to whites… well, you have missed the point entirely then, and/or you still aren’t listening.  I give you one last chance at this juncture to hop down off your high horse and experience more of life, a life that has nothing to do with your individual skin.  I invite you to try on some new ideas and ideals today.  I invite you to stop being afraid.  I challenge you to step out of the masses and the cog thinking.

I suspect that there are still some that are wondering just what my deal is.  If I sound angry, I am.  Besides what I think should be the obvious reasons for having humanity in my heart, there are people that want to kill and do other horrible things to people that look JUST LIKE MY CHILDREN.  NOW DO YOU GET IT? If you still don’t, then all I can say is I hope you get help for your blindness and willful stupidity.

Complicated?  Confusing?  Yes!  And I say, “So what!”  Wake up and stand up, or please just shut up!  White privilege is a real thing.  Mistreatment of people of color is a thing – to put it all lightly.  I will no longer be sporadic with my voice on this.  So either be prepared to deal with me, get on with me, or exit from my life.  I have ushered others out before you.  Consider that your experience is not the template for others, and consider that other experiences contrary to your own are actually real.  We don’t have to agree, but I insist on respect.  Try on acceptance vs. tolerance.