Tag Archives: change

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 29 and 30

1 Oct


Author Presentation
Here I am, in front of a classroom like I have been many times since becoming a student teacher, then a teacher, then a substitute teacher. Now a writer and story-teller. Now I am not telling kids that they have to pass a test to succeed in someone else’s definition. I am telling them that they can define what success is and reach for their own dreams. I am telling them that if the bullied and terrified girl can grow up and talk to rooms full of children, and if the shy, bookworm can turn those early crayon illustrated notebook “Novels” into published books, and convince school districts to use them to teach from, then they can also find a way to share the things they love with the world. I tell them they may never get rich doing what they love, and they may need another job to put food on the table and a roof over their head, but that they should never give up on doing the things that make them feel glad to be alive. I tell them that if you find something that delights you and makes you interested, other people will be interested and delight in it too. It’s all about recharging your energy so you have energy to help recharge our darkest days and let the rest of the world see how beautiful it can be just to share this big blue planet with each other.


Finding The New Trail
Well, when we first met, we were half the people that we are now. Finding someone I could love this much when I was just 18 is a pretty rare and amazing thing and I never take it for granted for a moment. We had so many dreams that we used to talk about as we carpooled to those first college classes back in 1982 and the strange thing is that all of those dreams have come true. We have raised two incredible young Men, we have travelled and taught and loved and fought and made up and kept going. Now we are back where we started, a couple on our own, in the uncharted waters, for us, of dealing with aging parents with weaker by the day, health issues and new grandchildren, and sons who didn’t see us as perfect parents and so have to learn to be their own guides now. We have had to go through another lonely Thanksgiving and Christmas even more depressing than the ones just after we got married. We had to go camping with just us, and find conversation through 3,000 mile road trips without anyone interrupting. We still have less stability than we should, we are in debt and not seeing a way to keep up on the maintenance that out old house and cars need. We have moments of being scared and lonely and wondering what the future holds, but every night when I drift off to sleep I still hear him breathing beside me, and that makes everything good.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 28

30 Sep


Well Hello, Baby
No matter what you think you want from your life or when you expect it to happen, there are some things that take you by surprise and demand their own timeline and insist on happening, not according to your plan but JUST RIGHT NOW.
Our babies were like that, not even close to when we planned to have children, so why would we expect our granddaughter to be any more cooperative. Daisy didn’t arrive on anyone’s schedule but her own. Yet like some of the best gifts that life gives you, her arrival, surprise that it was, filled us with joy and laughter and hope for the future. All those wonderful gifts that babies have been bringing to the world since time began came with this little girl.
It is nice to be reminded tht there is nothing in the world so important that it can’t be set aside for a moment, or a month or a year, while you ignore everything but the chance to make tiny lips smile and tiny eyes crinkle and tiny lungs burst into giggles. When time slows down, in that old, ordinary way, Life can be extraordinary.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 27

29 Sep

Becoming Men Collage

Life changes fast when your children are only a year apart. You have two babies and then you have none. You live at the grade school and then you never go back. Two high school students consume your life and then the house is empty.
Austin turned 18 in March of 2011 and met his birth family and graduated and moved out and became a crab fisherman. He had a string of different girlfriends and every time I got to know one, she was gone – but now he has been with Trisha for over a year and he seems happier than I have ever seen him. He is off the boat and working with handicapped adults and is so kind I am very proud.
Emerson and Lula became a rock solid couple and graduated high school together, then moved to Santa Cruz and finished the first year of the program to become Math teachers, and then Daisy arrived and we are grandparents and falling in love all over again.
Suddenly the boys are men, and unlike the teens I knew, are full of smiles and laughter and easy hugs. Now I am dong other things than being a Mom, but being a Mom was the biggest joy of my life and watching the boys turn men, and my husband and I turn into grandparents has been amazing. Sometimes I feel too lucky, scared that everything I ever had on my bucket list has been accomplished so what comes next? I knew I needed new goals, “me goals” or I would turn reclusive and never be able to pry myself out of the house.

Autobiographical Challenge: Day 6

8 Sep


this picture, for my brothers birthday back on August 27 Is the one that made me decide to spend this month with old stories and old family pictures.

My parents were sure that they could never conceive another child after I was born, and then one day asked me what I thought of the idea of a baby in the family. I thought having a little sister would be wonderful and told them so. I hadn’t known that the reason I had been having a babysitter once a week was because they were attending pre adopt meetings. At that time adoptions were very secretive things and babies were placed far from their family of birth. So we had to drive nine hours to pick up the six month old baby boy. My brother was adopted when he was 6 months old and I was almost 5. I remember driving clear across the state with my parents to pick up my new brother. Actually I was convinced it would be a girl, and when the social worker heard me ask where the girl was, she pulled out his picture and showed me, and said, “I guess we have to find another home for this boy then” and I remember screaming at her as I stared at the photo, “Don’t you dare give my brother away.”
I gave up the idea of a sister as soon as I saw his picture and fell in love.

The worst part for me was that my Dad’s big sister came to see the baby and decided that a new baby and my long hair were too much work for my mom, and gave me a pixie cut. I hated it and soon started school where I became known as Pixie-Dixie but wasn’t allowed to grow out my hair for a few years.

I did love having a baby brother. But we hadn’t had him long before he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and children were not allowed in as visitors. I wasn’t happy that they took my baby away, and even angrier when mom bought him a stuffed panda. I cried and begged and got her to give it to me. So then she bought another, this one in powder blue and pink to take to him in the hospital. My panda still gives me a twinge of guilt – even knowing that sibling rivalry is common and knowing that little girl was missing her brother and being the center of her parents attention – I still cringe about trying to steal the toy from a sick baby.

When we first brought him home, he became hysterical at night. The social worker only told us it was because he had been used to sleeping in a crib with two other babies. I was never sure if that meant he had been a triplet or merely that there were a lit of babies in his pre adopt foster home

Now 46 years later, and the mom of an adopted boy myself – I can say adoption is a wonderful way to build a family.

2011 Christmas Letter – Tsunami and A Death by Train and life changes again

13 Feb

Merry Christmas 2011 and Happy 2012 to you

from Dixie and Greg, Austin and Emerson


December 3, 2011

     I was just looking at a collection of photographs called, “the most powerful images from 2011.  There were pictures of tornado’s and tsunami damage and starving children, and protesters being pepper sprayed and sad people at memorials.  I know that all of those Images had a place in this turbulent year, but I also know, that all around this big, beautiful planet, there were images of love and beauty, and I still believe that there is much to celebrate about being alive in this time and place. 

    I crawled out of my warm bed this morning into a house that was frosty and cold, and stuffed my feet into slippers to go out on the front porch and raid the kindling box and get firewood to start the woodstove again.  The sun was glittering off frost on the maple, with it leaves just starting to turn reds and yellow, the green grass that is back after the dry brown of September meets the rain of November here.  Even 28 years since I lived in Wyoming, has not cured me of the amazement I feel at seeing green grass and having a Christmas tree at he same time.

     2011 has been a different year for our family, a year of change, a year of memories and anticipation.  I know that life is about movement, and watching my children grow has shown me an ever steady progression from a tight, warm nucleus out in steadily expanding circles of exploration.  At first the babies were the center of everything, and went no-where except cradled in our arms, then they crawled around the room, and stood shakily and walked and fell and made it out to the bigger adventure of exploring the yard.  Next they ran to the neighbors and picked apples, and dug in the ditch and rode their bikes up and down our little road.  But still moving out in circles of experience with our home at the center, they began to ride the bus to school, and their bike to the market and even the 6 miles to school, and they went on trips to Washington DC, and Nebraska, and Portland and San Francisco and Disneyland.  Then they began to drive and now Austin has moved out and Emerson is a senior and has completed several college applications and the circle keeps expanding.

               A few things that impacted us this year,

    The March Tsunami in Japan also hit Crescent City and demolished out commercial boat harbor, but the repair is underway now and the way the community has worked together on this is mostly good things for a lot of people, still the damage will be there and has hit some families much harder than others.

    Austin met his birth father, and his birth mom and oldest sister have moved out here close to us.  That has added some drama and confusion as well as answering a lot of his questions.  I’m glad he has the chance to get to know them, and glad too that he was grown and already his own person before this happened.

     He graduated from high school in June and moved out and got himself a puppy.  He spends every moment he can on the river and is doing OK now but he had some difficult moments.  He broke up with a very serious girlfriend and had to have 4 wisdom teeth extracted and was basically homeless for a time.  Being an adult isn’t easy, but he’s managing.  He has always been a great person with a passion for the outdoors.

     Emerson has been doing well in school.  He gets good grades and is the senior class treasurer, and he has a very nice girlfriend and a group of friends with his own style of humor.  His life is moving fast toward graduation himself but he seems to be handling it with grace and a smile.

View from Klamath Bridge

     This summer we had a lot of great days, good company three times, and a grey whale and her calf that took up residence in our Klamath river and stayed for several weeks.  Greg’s Sister Wendy, and her family came and we had the time to explore our redwoods and beaches with them, plus take a jet boat up to see the whale.  My friend from high school brought her husband and daughter and we got to visit and explore even more and then we had a friend here for Band Camp, but Thomas is more like part of our family than like company.

     I managed to publish book 2, Duffy Barkley: Seek Well  so now there is actually a “Series” of Duffy Barkley Books, and I am working on number three.

     Greg and I are feeling the aches and pains of nearing 50, our 30th anniversary from High school graduation was this year.  There were a lot of expensive medical tests and frustrating Dr. visits but we’re doing fine, just not as young as we’d like to be and far too young to feel this old.  So once again, the New Year’s resolutions include getting healthier.

     This summer will be 2 years since we have been back to Wyoming, and there have been some sadness and changes there as well.  The biggest, saddest change is that we lost our first nephew when he was killed when hit by a train, walking home from the grocery store in Nebraska.  RIP, Cody! Our family there has otherwise survived and is doing about the same as far as we can tell, but it has been so long that we have to make it back this 2012 summer.

     Have a great Christmas with all the friends and family that you can manage to gather around you, and thank you for being a part of our lives.



Greg, Dixie, Austin and Emerson

Austin’s new puppy, Ford (pronounced Ferd)


The old lady of the sea


our tree was blown down across the road to the neighbors homes


neighbors working together to move tree


Emerson and Austin helping


Austin and both his Moms


Emerson and Greg went to Blue Man group in San Francisco




Austin’s High School graduation


Book 2


feeling accomplished


Ford by Summer


taken during Jet boat ride


Emerson, Lula, and Greg’s brother-in-law John


Emerson being all laid back and cool


Just, No words  


Emerson and Shira (A good friend) in Fern Canyon


Make a wish


playing cribbage and waiting on the turkey to bake


Emerson and Greg in the Redwoods




Our nephew, Cody and his children
RIP Cody


Cody, at age 11


Cody and the other Grandsons

1996 – change and that other “C word”

22 Dec

When I first decided that I wanted to gather up all my old letters and add some photographs and retype them all into one location, I wasn’t thinking that doing so would mean revisiting 1996

1996 was a horrible year for my family

but revisiting it reminds me that it also had a few of the last, best memories of my family

Hello,       April 10, 1996

For 13 1/2 years we have paid rent on someone else’s property and we have moved 13 times in those 13  1/2 years. (if you think that sounds bad -remember we’ve only moved twice in the last 7 years!) – well those days have just ended (knock on wood) with approval of a 30 year loan on 2 acres and a 5bedroom house – – the land is lovely and includes several redwood stumps – one with steps carved into it and a deck on top which the boys love.  If you’ve never seen a redwood tree you may be wondering why the excitement but the stumps are as big as the bedrooms which tells you something about both 🙂 – in fact our Tony Rosa Road is only a dirt driveway off of “Wonderstump Road.”  Anyway, we love it and (hint, hint) there is room for company. So We’re all excited and doing fine – Austin just turned 3 and is quite the big boy and even Emerson (2 in 6 days on the 16th) is rapidly losing any traces of babyhood.  Teaching, parenting and now moving!  We’re numb with exhaustion, but not too numb to remember you often,  Love Dixie and Greg

Grandpa Paul, Dixie’s Dad loved being a Grandpa.
Here with Lacy and Austin

     The night of Christmas 1996, my Dad was in the hospital in a room beautifully decorated but even that beauty had a message that life was ending. The hospice room was filled with Christmas lights and a small tree and there was something like 24 inches of snow, My toddlers and I made snow angels in the hospital parking lot and mom watched from the window. Friends and family came by, Ten we moved Dad back home to a hospital bed in the living room. 

      That New Year we were flying back and snow closed the roads to the airport and then we flew a day later to an area filled was flooding everywhere, Eureka, CA; Ashland, OR;  Klamath, CA. One month later, by Just after midnight on Feb 1st 1997 my Dad died. I guess I’m just remembering now how fast it went, but not as fast as the next death on the First of June, of the boys Day-care Grandpa, who collapsed of a heart attack during a stress test at the hospital and was dead before he hit the ground. So 1996, hard as it was, was at least a year all the family was still alive.

Paul, Pricilla and Emerson at Lake Selmac in Oregon
The last Christmas with Papa Paul happened here
In the Park County Hospital Hospice room
Papa Paul, August 1996
faced the boys on the beach to the top of a huge rock known as Battle Rock
But by October he could barely stand up from the couch where he slept in the living room
and jaundice was turning him Yellow
and he had missed my brother Lance’s High School Graduation
The cousins on Greg’s side of the family
sadly by now we have also lost Cody, the oldest
This picture taken in my parents yard in October

Merry Christmas 1996!

I hope the past year has been kind to you.  It has not been one of our best- but it has not been as cruel as it could have been either.  Every day we wake up knowing that “Grandpa Paul” is still alive and that in itself is enough miracle to require a celebration this Christmas.  To catch you up on the state of our life requires a quick journey back in time to April, when a weekend glance through the ad section of the paper changed us from rent payers to mortgage holders.  For 13 1/2 year we had paid rent o someone else’s property – and moved 13 times in those 13 1/2 years. Well, on Emerson’s second Birthday (April 16) we were moving into 2 acres with a 5 bedroom Farm House.  The land is lovely, with apple and plum trees and several redwood stumps – One with steps carved into it and a deck on top, and one with a small Fort built into the burnt out center – both of which the boys love to play on/in for hours – They quickly become Pirate ships, Castle or Fire trucks

If you’ve never seen a redwood tree, you may be wondering why the excitement about stumps, but the stumps are almost as big as the bedrooms which tells you something about both 🙂

Well, Finally buying a house and moving – while still dealing with two full time jobs and two toddlers is stressful but still joyous.

However we closed on the house the same day that we learned that Dixie’s Dad had been diagnosed with esophageal Cancer and it has been a struggle to keep sight of the joyous aspects of our lives. The Emotional roller coaster of needing to be in Wyoming with Paul and in California with our jobs and new house have never slowed since April.  Paul needed major surgery – removal of part of his stomach and then was told he was cancer free – only to learn in August after a visit to us, showed him still strong, but with massive pain in unrelated places like his shoulders, that he has multiple areas of bone cancer with a need for serious chemotherapy but little hope for a cure. But because he really wanted to be around for his grandkids, he had to try. Time and some treatments completed made that hope grow stronger.

So we went to Wyoming on Emergency leave in October when things were grim and my toddlers were saying daily prayers and asking each day, “is Papa Paul still alive.”  Now we return for Christmas to celebrate still having this wonderful man and the successful completion of four rounds of Chemo.  You sometime wonder if the cure isn’t as bad as the disease but where there is life there is hope.

(But between writing this Christmas letter and getting to Cody, that hope was replaces with the knowledge that life was measured in days remaining and the cancer had spread to kidney’s and internal organs and hope was gone)

Without going into great detail – those who know Dixie’s family know the detail, I must say that the major surgery done in Denver on my nephew Luke (at 6 months) and the cancer in the families of some of Paul’s siblings all lead us to the heartfelt prayer that 1997 is a kinder – safer year for those we love.

On a happier note we decided to remember that we do have much to be thankful for – our jobs – our home – and most of all our family which may be battered but is intact and un-beaten.

So we gave ourselves a much needed Thanksgiving Vacation by driving up the Oregon Coast to see Keiko – the killer whale star of the Free Willie Movie in Newport’s “Oregon Coast Aquarium” and he put on an awesome display of breath-taking intimacy – he came right to the glass and flattened his nose against it and bobbed and played in response to our waving.  In spite of the glass we were so close.  I was and still am profoundly moved.    ( note From 2013 I hear the talk of the movie Blackfish and the fact that whales and dolphins do not belong in captivity and the horror of being held prisoner and trained but I wonder, without marine land and sea world and trained whales, would anyone ever have known enough to care about them and map a movie like blackfish, or would they already have been exploited to extinction)

And that is not all – we spent some time with Greg’s sister April and her husband which was great and they treated all four of us to three meals in quaint, ocean view, cliff top cafe’s and we went to Sea Lion Caves and the Bandon Petting Zoo – so in our four days, we saw a killer whale – climbed in a sea cave filled with sea lion – petted a 6 month old tiger and visited “Auntie April”

So Greg and Dixie are doing OK, or so we keep reminding each other when the stress gets overwhelming.  One plus about having one family member with a serious illness is it does remind you to appreciate all your family members more – and the things which used to seem like major problems don’t really seem all that important now.  Every time Dixie’s jerk of a principal rears his ugly head she can think how insignificant his Harris-ment seems and laugh.

Daycare Grandparents, Dale and Nadine at Austin’s 3rd Birthday
in old house

Now BRAG time about my two favorite boys.

Austin – at 3 years and almost 9 months he no longer allows

me to call him my baby although he is and always shall be my baby. He is also right.  He’s growing and learning so much and is sometimes almost a miniature adult.  When asked what he wants for Christmas he said, “New muscles for Papa Paul so he’ll be strong, and a train, and Candy.”  He is learning to recognize letters and words – he saw WAL*MART and thought it said Willie*Marc  (Willie goes to day-care and Marc is her Dad) He is an observant, strong, highly verbal boy with a ton of energy but he can also be so warm and loving.  “I love you as much as the stars. I’m so glad I’m your kid.”  He says almost as often as he says, “I can if I WANT to!”

Emerson on his second birthday at new house 18 days later

Emerson – 2 years and 8 month, wants to be “Captain Jim” the hero of his favorite book.  He is quiet unless he is screaming.  He’s gentle, say-going but volatile and stubborn.  He is a contradiction and is OK with that, and uses the word “BUT” a lot to rearrange the world to fit his truth – When told Captain Jim Wouldn’t wear diapers he blithely informed us, “But I’m Captain Jim AND I wear diapers.”  And we love him.

Again, Merry Christmas

Greg, Dixie, Austin and Emerson

Coast to Coast across the USA

25 Jul

Coast to Coast across the United States

When I wrote my third book, Double Time on the Oregon Trail, it actually was the first book that I had started but the research and a strange reluctance to stop researching and write, kept me working on it slowly while finishing the other two.
you can find all 3 books on my Amazon author page
I was immersed in the details of how difficult it had been to travel across this continent when you had to go on foot with only a few water passages and a few animals to help with the burdens like when Lewis and Clark did it, and how 50 years later, with big wagon trains and a series of maps and guides to follow, and a system for getting some news back and forth between the two edges of the continent, it still wasn’t much easier.
Because Double Time is a book with two characters in two different times, even the modern girl in 2002 had it differently than I did this summer when my aging Mom, and my 38 year old brother with Down’s Syndrome, moved across the country from me and I travelled from the Pacific redwood coast to Washington DC to visit them.
I had a lot of issues and delays, but the knowledge of the 6 months journey involved mot all that long ago, kept my problems in perspective
I thought how old fashioned these looked now that everyone has cell phones, but at the end of my trip I wished I was prepared and could find one

At first I had a very small drive (90 miles) to get to the “local” airport. And then the fog delayed the arrival of the plane I needed to catch to get to my one hour layover in San Francisco.  So before I even got in te air, I knew my connecting flight had already been missed, but the next one would take off an hour after my predicted new arrival

The first plane I rode

Once I got to San Francisco, on the opposite side of the terminal from the gate I was leaving from, I caught a tram, and several moving walkways and tried to make the 45 minutes work.  I shouldn’t have worried, that planes departure was seriously delayed as were all of San Fran, due to the closure of one runway because of the wreckage from the korean jet just days earlier. In fact we landed almost on top of that wreckage it felt like.


So I spent a lot of time watching the children’s playland area.  It was filled with hands on science things like at the exploratorium and I wished my kids were still young enough to give me an excuse to be in there swirling the steam and making the electrical lightning flash upon the wall.

the Asiana plane crash was another reminder that the delayed flights were minor details in the grand scheme of travel and life.


And the plane finally was loaded and ready to depart, when thunderheads between Lake Eerie and Florida meant planes were being diverted to DC and we were being delayed on the tarmac for 2 1/2 hours so we were told to go back in the airport.  Then pulled up across from the wreckage and parked instead.


Finally in the air, and due to arrive at midnight instead of 540 PM – I sent a text to my brother and my phone died.  He didn’t get it, and I landed in a nearly deserted Dulles airport with no idea of where to meet him, and with no idea of his cell phone number or how to reach him.

The kindness of strangers came into play many times on this trip and people helped me find a place to charge my phone enough to get a text to my brother. He had just given up and gone home so by the time he came back for me it was 2 AM when we got to his house.


Then things got pretty good. I got ten days of family time, seeing my brothers, and my Mom and a niece and a nephew and visiting the Smithsonian and seeing an old Wyoming High School classmate there.

Lance, after 18 years at Walmart has a new job driving and feeding animals around a farm in Virginia
Mom, can’t always remember our names, but can still enjoy many things with her family

      All too soon it was time for me to leave, and th return home was even more complicated.  In DC the thunderheads returned, so there was another 2 1/2 hour wait in a plane parked on the tarmac, and I missed the flight I was connecting with in Sacramento, but this time that 9:30 flight didn’t have another until 6:30 the next morning, so I ended up sleeping in the Sacramento Airport’s quiet room. Again the kindness of strangers was wonderful, and I got to visit and talk to many people, but whrn I went to the quiet room to sleep, there was only one other person there, a young woman who now lives 1500 miles from me, but was in my son’s first grade class.


we watched the sunrise together


and then there were only 3 passengers on the plane I caught that finally brought me home.


 DC had been 40 degrees hotter than the redwoods every day I was there, and frankly, the fog and coolness and relief from the sticky humidity was a wonderful welcome home.


To see a great review of Double Time by a book reviewer in India