authors, family, Life in General, parenting

Why I Need to Get My Head Examined

the cliffs of insanity, or just a bad headache

You might think it’s because I hang off the edge of cliffs, and that’s probably a good enough reason. But then there’s this. Three days ago, I get a call from my sister that my mom has fallen, smashed her head and has no memory of how it happened or what’s going on. Because she’s a Shattuck woman, she insists to her friend who found her wandering around outside that she doesn’t need to go to the hospital. Her friend texts a picture of the open gash in mom’s head to my brother, an ex-paramedic, and he texts back, “CALL 911”

I feel horrible that I’m not there. Normally, I’m the go-to choice for trips to the ER. Next thing I know, I’m getting calls left and right, she’s in the trauma unit, she doesn’t recognize my brother or sister, who are there with her by now. She’s disoriented, can’t remember her birthday and has no recall of the last few days. They’ve done a brain scan (meaning she had her head examined!) and it looks okay, no internal bleeding. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m up in Santa Cruz, so since she has family with her, I tell them all I’ll head down to LA the next morning early. I feel so guilty that I’m not there I go ahead and pack a bag so I can leave super early. I’m not feeling great myself, so I go to bed early.

Within a few hours I wake up with a fully loaded Ram pickup truck parked on my head. I mean I have a headache like I didn’t know you could survive, like I’m not sure I can stay conscious if it’s going to hurt this badly. Like second only to childbirth but with no breaks between contractions painful. I can’t take light or sound, any movement makes me want to scream but at the same time I wouldn’t dream of making a sound, it hurts even to breathe. All I can do through the night is cradle my head in the dark. I take as many ibuprofen as is legal, maybe more, and try to meditate the crushing pain away. That requires focusing on my breathing, which hurts, so…that’s not helping.

By morning the headache has lessened a half a degree, but I cannot get out of bed. I’m the worst daughter in the world. I should be in LA taking over my mother’s care. My cell phone is buzzing and ringing with news about my mom, questions about when I’m coming, etc, and every time I look at it the light pierces my brain. Still, I force myself to find out what’s happening from my siblings and let them know I’ll leave in a few hours if I feel better. Doctors call, and squinting and grimacing, I answer their barked questions about my mom’s medical history. Why are they all so loud?

Then the phone keeps ringing and the screen says it’s my mom, but when I pick up and whisper hello (all I can endure) there is no answer. After four or five times, we have this exchange.

“Mom? Mom? Are you there?”

“Oh, hello.” She speaks as though she’s surprised I called.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“Well,” she say indignantly, “I’m in the hospital and I have no idea how I got here. No one has even called me except my friend Sharon.”

“Mom, Shawna and Dwayne were with you all day yesterday.” (my siblings)


“Shawna is on her way there now.”


“And I’m going to try to drive down later today.”

“Oh. Well all I know is I woke up and nobody is here.”

“Shawna will be there soon.”

And I knocked out a tooth,” she says accusingly, as though I snuck up behind her and yanked it out with a rusty nutcracker.

This simple exchange feels like grenades going off in my head. My whole body feels like it’s been hit by a truck, but I still kind of want to slap her. How many years have I spent taking her to hospitals and doctors appointments, making sure she’s okay, but the one time I missed a turn…

“I love you mom, I’ll talk to you later.”

Her response was a tortured sigh and her saying she had to go now. A nurse or doctor came in I’m assuming.

But my own little parcel of hell doesn’t lessen, it gets worse. I spend the whole day in bed, and then spend yet another night begging for sleep and relief. My body is exhausted, I’m nauseous and sweating. My brother, the ex-paramedic, is texting me that I might have a blood clot and I need to go to the hospital, which isn’t alarming in any way. Just what a gal wants to hear when her forehead is being used as a dance floor for a thousand super-sized river dancers wearing golf cleats. I don’t want to go anywhere, do anything, speak, think, or move thank you very much.

But hubby sets up an appointment at Urgent care and off we go, me carting my pillow to block out the horrific lights and sounds of sleepy Scotts Valley. The doctor decrees that I probably don’t have a blood clot, which is somewhat comforting, though a more definitive choice of words would have been welcome, ‘probably‘ leaves the door open that maybe, I just might, possibly have one. That’s how I hear it in the five alarm fire that is my head anyway. He thinks I have a migraine type headache, but not a migraine because I’ve never had one, and he prescribes super mojo painkillers to ‘break’ the pain and sends me home.

I’m never leaving home without those pills again. You can have all the credit cards and fancy cars you want to show off with, I’ll take the pills, thank you. Within a few hours I was mostly headache free. Still limp and barely animated, but sweet relief is in sight.

So, I’m recuperating today. Keep thinking I can do my usual stuff only to wilt like arugula on a bbq within a minute or two. I’ll try to get to LA and mom tomorrow. I still feel badly I didn’t rush to her bedside, but driving requires the use of light and sight, two things I couldn’t pretend to face.

And my mom? She’s home at my sisters house, complaining that she’s bored. She’s back to normal,(translate as level-three hurricane force activity) and insists that we’re being ridiculous for wanting her to take it easy.

Yep, that’s me, the jokester with a first time migraine-slash-maybe, possible bloodclot who needs to get to LA to make sure that her 80 year old mother doesn’t slide down my sister’s stairway railing or drive to Santa Anita to wander around the cherry blossom festival.

She would do it too.

I might still have to get my head examined for clots or even just for hanging off of cliffs, but so far, I’m happy to be able to sit up and eat.

But I still feel guilty.

Lesson learned? Try not to pile shame on top of physical pain and keep your prescriptions within arm’s length.

But first, get a prescription.

Stay healthy.

Shari, March 15th, 2017





Life in General, parenting

How to be the Favorite Aunt. (or other relative.)

I love Christmas, mostly the getting ready for it and making it special for others. Don’t know why, but I’ve always been more comfortable giving than receiving. So, a few years ago, I got the idea of making an advent calendar for my girls, nieces and nephews that would actually allow them to open a small gift every day.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. There are eight kids in my immediate family, they each get 24, tiny, individually wrapped gifts, one for each day of December through Christmas eve, making a grand total of 192 presents.

Here are the basic rules, and then how I’ve learned to make it easier on myself.

First, do not spend more than a dollar on any item. You can do a couple of two or three dollar ones, as long as you keep most of them in the 25 cent range. Second, start looking for next years stuff in January. I keep an eye open for fun little knick-nacks all year, mostly toys. The trick here, is keeping them small. Here’s a sample of what would go into one gift.

Image  or:  Image

Technically, there are two gifts in each, but I do love to spoil my babies!

Now, the first couple of years, I tried to find tiny gift boxes and wrap them all with gift wrap paper. Then cut ribbon and try to tie tiny bows without the ribbons falling off. It was crazy making. Forget it. Do you have any idea how many pieces of tape it takes to traditionally wrap 192 miniature presents? Insanity will set in before you get the tree up!

So, there are two easy ways that I’ve found. One, get a whole bunch of tiny gift bags, the downside to this is, you have to label each one with a number on some kind of tag that won’t fall off when it’s kid-handled. Added work. The kids go to their advent calendar every morning and find the gift with the correct number to match the date. Great way to help little ones with learning numbers and dates, by the way! The second way, which I’ve employed this year, is to get some tissue paper, cut it into four parts in stacks, and buy a bunch of decorative pipe cleaners. They take two seconds to put on, they stay on, and you can twist the ends into fun shapes!! Then use a red, green or gold marker to write the number on the tissue. It won’t get lost or separated from the gift.

Now, line up all your gifts. I have households with two kids each, some both boys, some boy and girl, and my two girls. So the gifts may need to change a bit, and it will get confusing as you wrap and number them. For my brother’s two boys, who are close in age, I make sure they each get the same thing every day. This will eliminate stress for their parents.

For the girl-boy or large separation of ages in the households, I line up two lines of gifts, one row for each kid, across from each other to make sure it’s ‘even’ and wrap as I go. First, day one for both kids. They get put into bags, marked with each child’s name, so that I know which is which later. You will not remember, trust me, even if you are far less frenzied than I.

Make a nice cup of tea. Find a place to put your tape, pen, and other supplies where you can find them repeatedly. Start wrapping. My next advice is this. Deli wrap. It saves time and you only need a single piece of tape for each gift. Start with the paper diagonal, fold up one corner, fold in the corner to the right, flip once, fold in the corner to the left, tucking in excess, and then roll up and tape. Add twisty, use the pen to put on a number with the date, presto!!


Here you’ve got one present. The next picture is about halfway through with the nephews’ batch. I only do one household at a time or I lose patience, and that’s no fun. You can see all the ones I haven’t wrapped beyond the pile. Notice that they are lined up to be the same for each boy, each day. If you have kids, you will understand why. If not, you will learn.


And finally, you will have the finished result. I gave each of my beloved children a small tree and a tiny tree skirt. They set them up in their rooms, (with lights) and place the presents around the bottom. It’s a miniature Christmas, that helps build the excitement for the big day!!


Another mistake to avoid. If you have a small one, say two or so. Don’t give candy on day one. I did this one year and my sister called me. “Great,” she said. “Now everyday when he doesn’t get chocolate, he has a hissy fit and I have to give him a time out.”


Babies are only worth doing if they have a sibling, who will very much enjoy opening the little packages of socks or tiny books and sharing with their little brother or sister.

It’s a lot of work, and no small expense, but in the end I know it’s worth it. the kids love to get this, it’s become part of their holiday tradition. And when my sister in Charleston called me to say they got the package and told me, “You would have thought the holy grail was in that box,” well, my heart beamed so brightly that the Christmas star came early that year.

Start early, this is something that needs to be done before December first.

Whatever you celebrate, may it be a joyous holiday for you, and may you feel the excitement of childhood in every day of your life.

Shari, November 28, 2012

Life in General

Leftover Lovin’


Here’s two of my nephews on the hunt. Be berry berry qwiet. Wabbit!

Whew! What a whirlwind Thanksgiving. One thing I love about Joseph and my families is the interesting mixture of people and kids with whom we have the joy of sharing the holidays! Thank goodness they all helped cook, and the plethora of food was almost embarrassing. My brother Dwayne, who produces both “Madmen” and “Magic City” and is a wonderful cook, took over the timing in the kitchen and got everything to the table in a timely manner. “We need gravy on the set!” “Flying in!” Once a producer, always a producer! 

The kids spent the day on the trampoline, searching for frogs, on the hillside smashing pumpkins, (not the band, we do this to share with the forest animals, and some of the seeds may root for next year!) I watched several ‘plays’ from the girls, which lasted all of thirty giggling seconds, worked on some stage fighting with the boys when they found Joseph’s stage swords, threw baseballs, picked oranges off the tree to make gallons of orange juice, (they love this!) and roasted marshmallows! Double whew! 

And now, the rest of the house is sleeping, and I’m up, wondering what to do with the leftovers that I couldn’t pack up for the others to take home. And here are some ideas! 

Stuffing balls. These can be done several ways. The kid’s favorite is this; take a small cube of cheese, pack it into a meatball sized ball of stuffing, (If it won’t stick, add an egg or two to the stuffing!) roll it in bread crumbs and fry it in a bit of olive oil, turning to brown evenly. If you are ambitious, you can add an outside layer of breakfast sausage before the breadcrumbs, serve hot! 

Turkey Crepes I won’t give a crepe recipe, it’s easy to find. Take the stripped clean turkey, and put it in water, bring to a boil then simmer for a good while. Strain the liquid, discard the bones, and bring the broth to a boil to reduce by at least half. You want a very flavorful broth. (this has the added joy of filling the house with that turkey cooking smell again!) take about two cups of the liquid, add a cup or so of half and half, a half cup of grated parmesan, half a pack of cream cheese, enough of a paste of flour and cornstarch combined to thicken it, stir to prevent clumping! Once it’s creamy, add in leftover turkey pieces, diced red pepper, peas if you like. Fill the crepes with the mixture, sprinkle with paprika and extra parmesan. Yummy! 

I’m not big on exacting recipes as you can see, but I think it’s fun to be creative, wing it! 

The best part of my thanksgiving was after everyone had left and I could hear my two girls in the bedroom next to mine. They were laughing together for a long time. The music of that to a mom is something that reverberates through you. Every time I would hear a blast of laughter, something in my body sang out. I thought to myself, I don’t know if I will ever be able to write that feeling. Some things in life are so all encompassing that even the most eloquent among us can only scratch out a stick figure sketch of the magnificent art that life is. 

But I’ll keep at it. Listening, loving, writing, sharing, being overwhelmed with gratitude. 

If only I could find the words. 

Shari,  November 23, 2012