Tag Archives: family


Last night, I experienced every parent’s worst nightmare: a missing child.  My five-year-old son walked out of the house around 10:30 p.m. while everyone was in bed.  Our bedrooms are literally back-to-back, and we had just spoken with him about turning the TV off.  When we checked on him five minutes later, his light was on and his room was empty…

We raced through the house calling for him.  My husband noticed the garage door unlocked, and partially closed.  My mind shut off, while I raced around the yard in a t-shirt and bare feet, calling his name.  Chuck jumped in the truck, and drove down the driveway to the neighbors where Whalen’s little friend lives.  He was no where to be found.  We live in a rural area, literally in the middle of the woods, where bears and other wildlife make their homes.  I was strangely calm while I searched the backyard and surrounding woods, looking in the tent, the hot tub, even checking the chest freezer in the garage.  He was nowhere to be found.

Chuck called his sister and his parents while he was driving around the immediate area.  My sister-in-law and her kids, my father-in-law, and my niece all showed up at the house, ready to search for him.  As I was getting ready to call the police, my telephone rang.  My mother-in-law, who lives a mile and half away, said he walked in the front door about twenty seconds after my father-in-law left.  He said, “Hi, Nanny!  I walked here in the dark-time!”  When I heard those words, “I’ve got Whalen,”  I broke into little tiny pieces.  I couldn’t breathe.  Extreme thoughts raced through my mind, more so when I saw him come through our front door in shorts, a t-shirt, and bare feet.  I still have no idea how he made it over there so fast with his little legs, no shoes, and no flashlight.

My five-year-old was missing for fifteen minutes that felt like five years.  As I think about it rationally, now that he’s safe and sound, I can’t help but be angry.  Yes, angry.  See, Whalen’s not your typical child.  He’s got problems.  The doctors claim it’s ADHD, which seems like a catch-all category these days.  Maybe it is ADHD, but guess what kids, there’s something else going on here!  However, God forbid you should give your opinion as a parent to the caregiver… The answer I get: “Here’s (insert stimulant name here).  Let’s give this drug a try.  I’ll see you in a month.”

Excuse me, did I hear you correctly?  I’m in your office crying about the behavior, the sleepless nights, the shit smeared on my walls and his hands daily, and the fears that he will hurt himself or someone else, but all you can offer me is an experiment?  Here’s a pill, let’s go a month and see if it works?  And it’s not just one doctor.  This child has seen a multitude of specialists, all of whom, even the God of Neurodevelopment who interned at the Mayo Clinic, have released him from care, stating, “I can’t help you anymore.”  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

What does it take to get someone to care?  Does my child have to kill someone, or injure himself so severely that he needs hospitalization before we’ll step up?  I am doing my job as a parent.  Six out of seven nights a week, I’m sleeping on our lumpy couch during his four a.m. forays into the kitchen.  My steak knives are put up and away.  I won’t allow a gun in my house.  I clean his shit up off of my walls and floors everyday without complaint, although there have been tears.  Why can’t the professionals step up and do their job?  Why must I beat my head against a brick wall?

I don’t have the answers.  I apologize for the rant, but I am completely open to comments, or suggestions!  One more thing:  My son was missing for fifteen minutes, and I felt like the world would end.  I cannot imagine what parents go through when their child is missing and there is no happy ending.  My heart goes out to those parents and children.


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Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Parenting


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Wrapping it Up!

Capstone is essentially finished.  The project is done, the essays and journal have been turned in for better or worse.  Only the hour where I present my project to my Committee is left.  When I look back over the course of this project, I can’t even begin to describe the hours: writing, revision, ordering, re-revising, re-ordering; I can’t describe the doubt, the anxiety, the fear, but I can describe the euphoria.  It’s done!  I completed a poetry manuscript!

This is really huge for me.  I’ve always been afraid to commit to a project, for fear that I’d fail. I have to admit that I’m afraid of a lot.  I’m afraid of change; I’m afraid of letting go, and I’m definitely afraid to try sometimes.  Fear does a lot of strange things to us.  It can keep us paralyzed, standing still while opportunities continue to pass us by.  Fear can keep us grounded while others are flying among the stars.

The last five years have been life-changing for me.  Certain events, like having my kids, have brought earth-shattering change in both positive and negative ways.  I’m certainly more apt to do battle over my kids; standing up for them has changed me from a passive person to an aggressive fighter. I’m more prone to emotion because of them. I’m also vulnerable to three tiny people who hold an enormous amount of power over me.  Becoming a parent was rather eye-opening.

Other events, like deciding to finally go back to school, have brought nothing but joy.  Yes, I’ve been slightly nuts, juggling the work with the kids, housework, and life, but I’ve also been working on a goal that I’ve had forever, which was to get my undergraduate degree.  I’ve also been working on a much larger issue without even realizing it: fear.  Every day, I’ve had to fight for what I wanted.  I had to sit in classrooms with peers and professors I didn’t know.  Being an adult student with younger peers was difficult at some points.  I had to adapt to the environment without sacrificing who I was, and why I was there.  I had to give speeches to earn my degree, something I’ve avoided more than spiders for the last ten years. I had to figure out what I really wanted out of my education, and commit to it with all of my drive and determination.

The whole time, I was conquering fears and I didn’t even know it.  During the whole process, I came to realize that I was so afraid of being good at something that I spent my whole life not trying anything.  I was so afraid that I really was a worth-while person that I let myself be that unlikable person my  family always made me feel like. I was so busy protecting myself that I never really let anyone in.  I will never forget the person that told me I could be anyone I wanted, that the past did not dictate my future.  Thanks, Trace, I’ll always be grateful.

When I was writing my presentation for Capstone, I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in me, not only over the past semester, but over the course of the last few years. I’m smarter, certainly, but I’m stronger.  I’m stronger because I faced a lot of fear and shot it down.  My determination and grit got me through.  I am worth more than I ever let myself feel.

The other day, I got my cap and gown for graduation.  It felt surreal, but so damn good!  I made it.  I’m graduating. I’m headed to graduate school, even won a scholarship.  I didn’t do it alone though.  I have three kids who have sacrificed just as much as I have; the time away was just as hard on them as it was on me.  My in-laws have also given up their time, and re-arranged their schedules to coordinate with mine.  There are no words to express the gratitude I have toward them.  When I walk at graduation, I’m going to look out into that audience and meet the eyes of my family, and know that the moment is just as important to them as it is to me.  My kids will remember that day.  Hopefully, it’s something they strive for, free of fear.

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Life


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Dear Gram,

It’s been eleven years now, and I still miss you.  I think of you often, especially while I’m holding Courtney in my lap, reading stories like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and But No Elephants.  When she follows along with the words to Geraldine’s Blanket, her long, blonde hair in pigtails, holding her blankie, I’m bombarded with images of us.  I hold her the way that you held me, encourage her the way that you encouraged me, and love her the way that you loved me.

Every day, we listen to great songs by The Beatles, Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and The Eagles, and I introduce her to newer bands, like 10 Years, Godsmack, Avenged Sevenfold, Art of Dying, and Five Finger Death Punch.  I remember how you loved Humperdink, but how you put up with some of my bands like Guns N’ Roses, Damn Yankees, and later, Nirvana, just so you could be more involved with what interested me. Years ago, I heard about the time you were Christmas shopping, and you bought me two of the greatest albums ever made. I could picture the shock on your face when you saw the cover of Nevermind, (that’s tame these days) and I know you winced when you heard the Black album for the first time.

Along with great music, I teach her about books.  You’d be so proud of the full-to-bursting bookshelves in my home.  Classics and popular fiction, poetry and biography, plays and naturally, children’s books. When I see the careful way she holds them, reverent, turning pages ever so precisely, I remember the books that you bought me, and how much I loved them.  I remember the way you fed my passion for books. I remember the time you saved the money that Grandpop gave you for things you needed, and how you spent it on a set of dinosaur books for me.  I remember how you kept my most favorite novels, on the shelf next to yours, when I asked you to keep them from mom and her book ban.  I remember how much she hated me reading, and I remember how you told me to never stop.

We read every day.  Sometimes, when she won’t stop pestering me, I read her my assignments for school.  I doubt she understands that she’s been exposed to some really great literature, like Steinbeck, Ibsen, O’Brien, Vonnegut, Frost, Plath, and Eliot, but I know.  I know that I am imitating something good, something that I was taught by an amazing person with a special gift: you.

Yes, Gram, you were gifted.  You were talented and influential.  You loved me.  You loved a little girl who probably drove you nuts with 10,000 questions per day. You encouraged a young child to learn everything she could, about everything she could.  You taught her to expand her thoughts and reach for impossible dreams.  You were my first teacher, and I think you deserve credit for all of the things I’ve accomplished.

Gram, I’m graduating from college in May! I’ve applied to graduate school, and even if I don’t get in, I’ll keep trying anyway. Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer, had a bum for a father, and a mom who went to ninth grade…  I’ve published several pieces of my writing, too.  The first acceptance letter I ever got made me nostalgic; I had clear visions of the stories I used to “write,” how you’d staple them together, put a title on them, and how you saved them until the day you died.  I only hope that I can live up to the example you were.

I am the most influential person in my daughter’s life, the way that you were the most influential person in mine. She’ll remember that, even if she remembers nothing else.  She’ll remember that someone will always accept her decisions, encourage her dreams, and dream them with her whenever possible.  She’ll know that she has somewhere to go, the way I always went to you.

I miss you terribly.  Those words seem so inadequate for the empty place I have in my life without you.  Someday, I hope that I’ll get the chance to hug you again, throw my arms around your neck the way I did when I was little, and the way that Courtney does to me now.  No matter how busy I am, I have never forgotten you.  I have such a clear picture of you in my mind, and sometimes it’s as if I could extend a hand and touch you. If only I could reach…



I love you,


P.S.  Could you give Donnie a hug for me?  I think he knows how much I miss him, but it never hurts to say.

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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Life


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Courage in Them Boots

Whenever I need courage, I  think of my six-year-old son, Lucas.  Lucas has an Autism spectrum disorder, and is one of the shyest kids you could ever meet.  As a baby, he didn’t like to be touched, held, or cuddled.  He was afraid of everything, and I mean everything!  The vaccuum cleaner could set off tantrums of terror that would last for hours, and the sight of a stranger would send him into hysterics.  As he grew, the fears grew with him.  He was afraid of dogs, doctors, his grandparents, his therapists, other kids, and bugs.  Especially bugs.  The sight of one flying past the sliding board was enough to make him jump off of the side, regardless of whether anyone was there to catch him.   Fears are a large part of Autism.  Autistic people don’t see the world the way that we do, and as a result, things get blown out of proportion. 

One thing that Lucas never feared (and this is simply amazing to me) were my father-in-law’s draft horses.  Belgian horses are certainly not the largest of the draft breeds, but they are way bigger than dogs.  From the first time Lucas saw these monsters, the kid was in love.  At a year old, he was sitting on them.  At eighteen months, he was riding alone while my father-in-law voice commanded.  At six years, he’s feeding them every night, often going inside the fence and walking them through the muck into their stalls.  Of course, he’s got his feet in a pair of trusty cowboy boots.  He got his first pair for Christmas when he was two; he wanted to be like Mommy, and Uncle Donnie, who wore their boots constantly.

The only time he ever smiled...


The first time I heard Lucas say, “There’s courage in these boots,” I was dropping him off at a friend’s house so that I could attend my brother-in-law’s viewing.  She was virtually a stranger to my son. My trusted babysitters (my in-laws) were obviously unavailable.   That line struck me then, and I remember it often, always wondering, Where did that come from?  He never answered me when I asked; instead, he gave me a shy smile and walked away.

I’m a big scaredy cat myself, and I think about that day a lot.  Everytime I have to do something distasteful to me, such as giving a speech, or taking a test, or meeting a new person, I look down at my cowboy boots with the gold tips.  I think, there’s courage in them boots, and I do what has to be done.  I think of my Autistic kid, and how he overcomes his fears every single day: getting on the bus to go to preschool, then kindergarten, and now first grade, the constant struggle of keeping up with the work, and how he’ll approach a dog now, when they used to scare him so much. 

The other day, I had to give my first ten-minute speech for Professional Speech at Keystone.  I was terrified, talking a mile a minute to my husband about standing in front of the class, forgetting my speech, and just generally feeling sick.  He reminded me that I could do it; after all, I was giving a speech on the history of Harley-Davidson.  How could I go wrong?  He said that Donnie would be proud of me.  Then, he told me to go look under our bed.  There, in a box hiding under my side of the bed, were a shiny new pair of cowboy boots, black with silver tips.  I brought them out, and slid my feet in, one by one.  He told me, “Donnie always said there was courage in those boots.”

Then, it dawned on me.  Where my son had learned it, and where he had gathered so much of his strength from.  I fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm me because I had forgotten such a vital part of my brother-in-law.  How could I have forgotten his strength, and the chuckle in his voice when he asked my son, “There courage in them boots, buddy?”  How could I forget the warm look in his eye when Lucas would excel at something, and the steady hands that guided him in fixing the broken porch step when he showed an interest in tools?  How did the everyday become today?

Life moves so fast.  The wound heals with a shiny, pink scar, but underneath it festers like an abcess, ready to burst through at the worst of times.  I gave that speech, and although I froze during my introduction, and I forgot some things I wanted to say, I gutted through with pure grit and a tapping boot.  In the coming days, as I have presentations to make, graduate school applications and possibly interviews to complete, and the GRE’s to take, I’ll take Donnie with me; I’ll draw strength from my son, and I’ll have courage in my boots.

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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Life


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Where’s the Balance?

The fall semester started on Tuesday, and so started my crazy six days a week schedule.  It should be easy.  I mean, I’m taking less credits than I’ve ever taken.  12 credits, four classes should be nothing to me after 18 credit semesters.  Oh, wait, that’s right… It’s Capstone semester.  Capstone.  The word inspires awe, anxiety, fear, and panic attacks in Communications students at Keystone College.  The syllabus is twenty-nine pages long.  The ability to graduate rests on successfully completing this two-semester graduation project.  Nothing I’ve done so far matters, as long as Capstone looms over me. 

Truthfully, I’m less worried about Capstone than other students in my class.  I can do the work.  I can turn things in on time.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a dedicated student.  My problem is a bit more complicated, and yet, a bit more simple.  I’m an adult student.  Not only am I older than most of the kids I go to school with, but I also have a few more responsibilities.  Namely,  my three small children, ages six, five, and two.

There is nothing like writing a paper over the chorus of voices, “Mommy, she hit me,” Mommy, I want (name said want),” “Mommy, Sissy needs a diaper,” and my personal favorite, “Mommy?” (look up from paper, see smiling child who really wants nothing, but a bit of my attention).  My problem is finding a balance.  How much effort really needs to go into these papers, when I have real, living beings depending on me for everything?  How much time should be spent wrestling, snuggling, and reading Peter Rabbit, when I have a stack of Vonnegut novels on my desk to be finished for Advanced Lit, a paper to write for Comm Theory, a speech to write for Public Speaking, and a proposal to prepare for Capstone? 

It’s all about balance.  And my life is balanced much like a basketball on a finger.  Any breath of air, one missed day, one emergency with the kids, could send my world spiraling out of control.  Why not just give up school until the kids are older, you might ask.  I’ve asked myself the same question.  The resulting answer looks bleak to me.  I love my kids, and I miss them like crazy when I’m not with them.  I even feel guilty sometimes for leaving them.  But, if I give up my dream to graduate, then I will be a worse parent.  I will be a bitter parent.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t have my dream too.  This is the thing that every mom needs to be reminded of. 

Following your dreams makes you a better parent because it completes you as an individual first.  And the thing is, moms are real people too.  You had a name before you became mom.  This is something I’ve only discovered recently.  When I think back to my own mom, and how strained her relationship had been with her kids, I realized that she had dreams once.  I realized that she was a real person, with a real life.  She just never pursued them.  It was a hard discovery, to realize that I shouldn’t hate this woman for not being her everything, and to see her as an individual, not only my mom.  One of my biggest fears in life is to become my mother.  I love her, but she is a very frustrated,  misplaced human being.  I realize now that I won’t be like her because I am me.  I follow my dreams, focus on what matters to me, and the rest falls into place. 

I still suffer from the famous “mom-guilt,” but I refuse to let it get me down.  I think that it makes me a better student to have outside responsibilities, and I think it makes me a better mom to have school, which has always been my thing.  It’s a challenge, balancing these two lives.  It’s a struggle to sit in class with whining kids who didn’t get enough sleep last night.  It’s a hardship, leaving my baby girl when all I want to do is hold her on the couch and watch a movie.  It’s dangerous, racing home from a 3:15 class at 70 mph so I can grab the boys off of the bus to start their homework.  Some days, I don’t think I can do it anymore.  Then, I remember how strong I’ve been in the past, and I know that somehow, I’ll manage.

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Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Life


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Live for the Living

The old cliche’s are all true.  That’s why they become cliche’.  They get over-used, to the point of becoming ingrained into our minds.  We’ve heard them all at least once; maybe more, if like me, you lived with an elderly family member as a kid.  Two things I always heard from my grandparents: “This too shall pass,” and “Life goes on.”  Well, I hate to admit it, but they were right.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the night my brother-in-law, Donnie, was killed on his Harley Davidson.  Truthfully, today is really no different for me.  I think about him every day, sometimes with a wry grin, other times with tears and regrets.  I remember the day of his funeral, my husband was on his knees, trying to breathe through the pain that crushed him like a car crushes a squirrel, and myself saying, “Life goes on, Chuck.  Live for the living.” 

At the time, it was the only thing I could think of to say.  But, in actuality, it was the best, and most true thing that anyone could have said. We settled back into our routines, back to school, work, diddled with our projects, cleaned our houses, and so on.  One day turned into another, and before I knew it, a whole year had passed.  The pain is still there, the sharp sting when I see the leather jacket he used to wear, or when I hear his laugh ring through my mind, or when I think about the race tickets he handed us, the day before he died. The pain is still there, but it does fade, just a little, especially when I remember that Donnie was so full of life, so full of attitude, and filled with a strength that could stand stubborn in the face of  disapproval.  He’d tell us the same thing.  Life goes on, so live it!

So, in honor of Donald J. Kinney (1968 – 2010), I would like to celebrate the living today.  There are so many people that have touched my life.  Some have picked me up when I was broken, some have held me up when I lost my strength, and some have pushed me forward into the unknown, when I might have gone backward into the safety zone.  Some have shown me love, others cruelty, but all have influenced my life, and have helped on this long, winding road that we call life.  I’m grateful for the living, and happy that I am among them.  I hope some day I will be able to influence someone else, the way that I have been influenced, guided, and inspired.  Live for the living, and cherish the ones you love.

RIP Brother, I’ll always love you and miss you like crazy!

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Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Life


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I Remember You

It’s no secret that I miss my brother-in-law, Donnie.  I’ve blogged about it, talked about it, written about it, and I’ve got a memorial tattoo on my arm.  A Harley symbol with three sets of initials, celebrating the special connection between myself, Chuck, and him, completed with Avenged Sevenfold wings.  It’s painful to look at, but it helps.  After all, he was involved in 90% of what we did, from working on trucks and riding motorcycles, to 4th of July fireworks and throwing hay bales all summer long, not to mention those quiet summer nights standing in the doorway of the garage, beer in hand.  Winter was a time for ice hockey, snowboarding, and drinking whiskey by the woodstove.  (Well, I drank the whiskey, the boys drank beer.)  The point is, he was always there. 

Afterward, I couldn’t even look at his chair by the stove.  The thought of it remaining empty for the rest of time brought a crushing weight down on my chest, and made it hard to breathe.  The garage was a nightmare for me, and the sight of a motorcycle could never fail to bring on the tears.  It’s gotten easier, but it never goes completely away.  We’ve been moving on, doing our thing, but in the back of my mind, I know that we are minus a member of our three-man crew.

Last week, when I hauled Chuck’s truck to the pulls, I turned to him with a sad smile.  “You know what’s running through my mind right now?” I asked. 

“That day you hauled the baler home,” he said, the pain evident in his voice that broke a little, just a little.

“Yeah,” I said, “He woulda really enjoyed this.”

The pain is always there, although sometimes it’s recessed in the corners of my mind, waiting like a snake to strike out at me when I least expect it.  We started haying last night, and as I jumped on the tractor, sitting on the fender while my five-year-old drove us down to the field, I was drawn back to a day when Donnie stood on the fender, teaching me to shift the gears.  As I stood on the wagon, ready to stack the bales thrown to me, I was taken back to a day where I was going down to the field with him.  He was holding a beer as he drove the Ford tractor down the road.  When we got into the field, he handed me the beer, told me to finish it.  Afterwards, he taught me to stack a hay wagon.  He’s always there.

The other day, my five-year-old, Lucas, handed me a rock he had written on.  “It’s Donnie’s name,” he told me.  “I remember him.”  What an amazing thing to hear from my son. I remember him too.  I remember the way he touched my life, and apparently, my two boys’ lives.  I remember every little thing from the last eleven years.  I’m glad that my boys remember him, and I’m sad that CC won’t. 

Sometimes I think the pain will fade, little by little.  It hasn’t even been a year.  Other times, I know better; I know there will always be a piece of us missing.

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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Life


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