“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Happy Birthday Party to Me

This birthday party fling is working well.

Since Joanna Leigh turned only three two weeks ago, I had thought that I could get away with one more year of not having a birthday party. Wrong.

Birthday parties have become such thematic productions that we can only dread them. The theme cakes from the grocery store bakeries are beyond awful, even though the kids like them. They are basically a tiny bit of flour and tons of food-coloring Crisco and sugar, shaped into Dora or a Princess, or Spider Man or . . . .

But, hey, this is working better than Christmas.

I’ve decided on a Cupcake tea party theme. We’ll have small tea sandwiches, like mini-grilled cheese, banana, and cucumber. The homemade cake will be a huge cupcake; there’s a cake pan for that as well as anything else you can imagine.

2010 05 25_birthdayparty_0014_edited-1

I read in some book that the terrible twos could spill over into three; it has. But every time I tell Joanna Leigh to stop doing something, like pouring her juice into and out of her play kitchen utensils – and missing everything except the floor and rug – and she stands there looking straight at me with this defiant smirk, I say, “Ok, young lady. There will be NO birthday party until you can do what Mama Jo says.”

“Noooo,” she wails.

“Are you going to do what I say?”

“Yes, m’am.”

As soon as the party is over on Sunday, then it’s only six months’ til Christmas – NOT any too early to begin invoking Santa Claus!

Oh, baaahhh, Humbug, TOTALLY. But, look, if it works, I’ll get past it.


Grandparents Parenting: Three Blings


Our granddaughter Joanna Leigh is 3! Her birthday party, however, isn’t for another week, and making that distinction was not working very well.


Spring 2010 School Picture

I took big globby fat cupcakes to her preschool day care class and they sang “Happy Birthday.” I had asked her if she wanted a scooter for her birthday. No. She wanted one of those cars for kids. Her feet wouldn’t be able to reach any pedals that might be there. Plus, the answer is NO. Because I said so. That isn’t working very well, either.

So I suggested new shoes. Oh, YES, she wanted new shoes.

We went to Bob Baumhower’s Wings restaurant here in town for their Wednesday Children’s Night. My cousin is the roving magician for those evenings, and he made her a special balloon animal in the likeness of our cat, Patty Cake. Then they brought this gooey powdered sugar beignet dish, with ice cream, raspberry and caramel sauce, and berries; the servers sang “Happy Birthday.”

Then we headed for Target.

She had been asking for “clip clops,” which I took to mean “flip flops.” I could not figure why she, the Queen of Prissy, would want gross shower shoes -- flip flops.

“Ava has some,” she said. “I need some clip clops.”

She has loved her sequined Mary Janes, in red and in silver. They had pink ones! Yea. And best of all, they also had glitter on them.

Two Blings.

Then she saw them. The clip clops. Thong sandals in silver, with what I can only describe as having a fuchsia/orchid colored strap, topped with a butterfly thingy.

“I want these! I need them. These clip clops. Ava has some.”

She wears a size 7 and had grabbed a size huge. I had to go up and down the aisles looking for these clip clops in a 7. I was desperate. Up and down the aisles of shoes. I kept showing her the pink sequined and glittered pink Mary Janes. But, NO.

Finally, a size 7.

She was happier than if it were a Barbie car that really drove.

She took off her shoes and put these on, with the elastic thingy that keeps both shoes in one pair still on them, and off she goes. Walking in very short steps because of the elastic string holding them together.

I was laughing so hard that people turned to look at us.

“We pay our money,” she said, and we did.

Here they are, in their three-Bling glory. She slept with them that night and all the nights since then.

Oh, happiness, thy name is Clip Clops.



Three Bling Shoes






Parenting Grandparents: Number 1 Splashdown

A Woman’s work is never done, says the old saw. An old parenting grandmother’s work is always overwhelming, says I.

Yesterday I asked my three-year old granddaughter if she needed to potty before I put her in the tub. She did.

I knelt over the tub to wash it out. Suddenly she tripped over my leg as she went to pour the contents of the potty pan into the commode. Her number 1 went everywhere – the floor, my White Flower Farm catalogue, my Rolling Stone magazine, and two books: Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg and Google’s Blogger for Dummies by Susan Gunelius.

All this stuff was one thing when I was a 36-year-old Super Mom. It is quite another 30 years later as a grandparent parenting a three-year-old. Do the math. I believe it would be easier to re-learn algebra than to get it all done each day and then deal with the splashdown of a 3-year-old’s number 1.

But this afternoon’s event really did it.

I went to the grocery store about 3 p.m. after doing wash, cleaning up the kitchen, vacuuming, cleaning up the cat’s vomit, and other menial chores.

It was threatening to rain, so I wanted to get it done. Plus, we had no toilet paper or night-night diapers. I ran up and down the aisles like someone was after me, pausing to give customers hogging the space a dirty look. I had to double back for more cat food for Patty Cake to throw up.

I spotted a check-out lane with no one in it, so I took off for that one. I got about half my stuff  scanned before noticing a young girl behind me with two items, but it was too late to be nice. I said to the check-out person, “I just want to beat the rain.”

I scanned my debit card, signed the receipt, grabbed the buggy and took off for the door.

“Wait, lady, wait.”

I looked back; I had left the cokes and a grocery bag of food on the counter. I grabbed it and ran.

It had started to sprinkle. I was throwing the bags into the back and I heard a nice voice say to me, “Can I help you with those?”

It was the young blonde girl from the check-out aisle, with University of Alabama shorts on and heading to her gold-colored Honda Civic. How nice of her, I thought.

“No, but thanks,” I said.

Wait. Was she really being nice or paying me back for not letting her ahead of me in line?

I turned back and said, “Do I look old enough to look like I need help?” I asked pleadingly.

But she was in the car by then, cranking it.

That’s just one more thing I don’t know the answer to.


Drug Addiction's Parallel Universe: Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 2:50 p.m., Part II

Note: Part I, dated April 29, and archived, is categorized under Drug Addiction and Grandparents Parenting.

As I was pulling into the parking lot of our granddaughter’s day-care pre-school building, my OnStar interior phone rang. It startled me. Then I realized I had left my cell phone at home, an unusual oversight.

My husband said, “I’ve been trying to call you. Where’s your phone? You won’t believe this.”

His tone made my heart jumped into my mouth. “What is it?”

For years and years, we have lived dreading phone calls, expecting the worst, learning stuff that was beyond shocking. Here we go again.

“Mary is sitting in the driveway. Don’t bring the baby home.”

“Where am I supposed to go?” I replied, disbelieving this news.

“I don’t know. Just don’t come home.” He hung up.

I had to pull into a Zippy Mart and tried to think. I had no phone with me, and it had all my numbers in it. Of those people I knew the numbers for, I didn’t know who to call. I felt that familiar frantic nausea that calls like this generate.

I drove around. And drove around.

Finally the OnStar phone rang again. “She’s gone. You can come home now,” my husband said.

Are you absolutely sure she isn’t sitting around the corner?”

“I’m sure. Just come on.”

Our drug addicted daughter was arrested in the early morning hours of March 16, for manufacturing and possessing methamphetamines; this is a serious charge, and she was already a three-time felon. I have felt a great relief in the past when Mary was in jail or in treatment somewhere, because it meant that she was safe, at least temporarily, for now. But this time, a cloud of depression settled on me, for I knew it would mean we would have to face the baby’s grief over the disappearance and loss of her mother.

Incredibly, she was back out on the streets April 15.

How in the name of everything did Mary get out of jail? It was beyond any explanation we could come up with. Her bail had been set at $115,000; it would cost someone $11,000 to post her bond. Who would do that? Not her friends. They are all drug addicts. Was it a dealer? The narcs?

She had worn a wire for the narcs here in town more than once. If this were the explanation, she would be in grave danger, as her flipping on dealers and users was well known.

So I drove toward home. I feel sure that Joanna Leigh, sitting in the car seat in the back, felt the tension. Suddenly I understood some stuff that had probably been tickling my brain for a while: This awful scenario is what it’s going to be like, keeping this baby from her mother. And it felt all backward and wrong. But the whole parallel universe of drug addition, criminality, lies – all of it was all backward and wrong. I would have to keep standing firm on what I knew I had to do.

I drove to my house a back way. This is just another example of what it’s like trying to live in a regular, normal way while that parallel universe of drug addiction is just outside of your peripheral vision.

As soon as we got out of the car, Joanna Leigh wanted to stay outside, ride her trike, go for a walk. I kept scanning up and down the roads. If Mary showed up now, this baby would have to face yet again the loss of her mother that would surely come.

The encounter happened anyway, a few days later.

It’s no way to live, but we had been living this insane way for the nearly quarter-century our daughter has been on drugs. She is 35.

(To be continued in Part III.)


Mother’s Day Once Removed

Today I got two Sam’s Club-sized bags of mulch and one Sam’s Club-sized bags of potting soil. My son knows me! I was glad to see his face this morning.

From my daughter, I got a letter from jail, and I’m choosing not to read it today. She is in jail yet again on drug-related charges, very serious ones this time; she is in jail yet again on Mother’s Day. (See the April 29 post “Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 2:50 p.m. Part I.” Part II will be posted this week.)

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to check Katie Granju’s updates at http://mamapundit.com/ on her son’s progress from entering the hospital in critical condition last week to his beginning therapy in the last couple of days. (See the previous post “Living Addictions.)

Today on Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about being a grandparent and a parenting grandmother. Tomorrow, Monday, would be a good time to get Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother, just issued in paperback by HarperCollins.


For a review and summary of contributing authors and grandmothers, see the Nov. 14, 2009, Post “At Home, Not Alone.”

A New York Times bestseller, Eye of My Heart is edited by Barbara Graham with an introduction by Mary Pipher. Some prescient compliments follow:

“Truth telling with dollops of love.”--O, The Oprah Magazine

“In illuminating, unsentimental essays, 27 writers offer up insights on the tricky art of grandmothering.” --People

“So many different perspectives and vantage points are woven seamlessly that no matter what their personal relationship to the word ‘grandmother’ is, readers will find much to make them laugh out loud—and also to break their hearts.” --Christian Science Monitor

“Realistic and gutsy, these essays offer encouragement and instruction to those of us who have stepped into new roles as elders. They are as rich with laughter as with sobering insights about the way we live now.” --LiteraryMama.com

“These stories are so fresh and fundamental, wrenching and joyful, that one is left feeling that the subject has never been cracked open before.”--Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Dance of Anger and The Mother Dance.

“Finally, a look at grandmothering that is decidedly unsentimental. These clear-eyed essays, written by some of the country's foremost writers, offer humor and insight as they take on the multigenerational lives many of us now lead.”--Cokie Roberts, author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters

This new paperback edition, as well as the hardcover edition, is available online book sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and at local book retailers.


Living Addictions

Families used to hide their mentally ill relatives in attics or cellars. And in unregulated and often abysmal asylums. Admitting this all too common remedy for misunderstood conditions can be prelude to how we deal with drug addiction today.

Learning where diseases like diabetes, leukemia and other cancers, AIDS, heart conditions, hepatitis, pneumonia, and, yes, mental illnesses live in our bodies has lessened the life threatening potential for these conditions to kill those whom we love and to reduce the exorbitantly high costs to society in general. This historical lesson can be prelude to understanding and treating drug and alcohol addictions.

The pancreas, the blood, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the body chemistry, and, yes, the brain: diseases live in these organs.

And now science knows where addictions live: the brain. This scientific knowledge should silence the debate over whether addiction is a disease. But it hasn’t.

This week I began following the terrible ordeal of Katie Granju on her blog, mamapundit, which I discovered on The New York Times blog, Motherlode, by Lisa Belkin. Granju’s son H was in critical condition, likely from a drug overdose and brutal beating in what was probably a drug deal gone bad, which she had written about in her April 28 post.

My most recent ordeal with my daughter’s drug overdose began on April 18, which I learned about as I was co-hosting a bridal tea.

Talking Real

Granju made the really hard decision to “go public” with this awful “family secret” on May 1 in a babble.com blog post, this way: “But I am saying it now, out loud, in public, for the first time: I am the mother of a drug addict. In today’s post (May 6), she listed three of the major criticisms of her writing about this very real problem:

1. She has no right to write about her son’s addictions.

2. Experimentation does not lead to addiction.

3. Drug addiction is not a disease.

Writing Real

Going public with any personal or family “secret” is terrifying in itself. I began slowly with going public, maybe some eight years ago, with my writing group. They were sympathetic and encouraging, to say the least. I owe them a debt of gratitude.

Then I took it a step further in my group at a creative non-fiction writing workshop in Baltimore, led by the wonderful and best selling writer, Marita Golden, by submitting a piece about my experience with “bounty hunters” beating on my door one night. I owe her a debt of gratitude for her encouragement.

Continuing problems with my drug addicted daughter stopped me in my tracks several times. I would try to start over. Then after we got custody of her daughter, our granddaughter, I knew I did not want to take all this to my grave, and I started this blog. I’ve had more than one moment of thinking I would shut it down, but here I am, public and writing real.

Morality of Real

I addressed the question of the morality of writing about someone else’s addiction in the Sept. 9, 2009, post “Memoir Morality,” prompted by the publication of Julie Myerson’s book The Lost Child. In that post (archived in the category Drug Addiction), I said:

Truth does not betray, in this case the drug addict. Truth may be harsh, it may be unpleasant, it may be ugly, it may intrude, but truth doesn’t betray. We betray ourselves when we can’t accept the truth and its reality. That is called denial.

I haven’t changed or modified my stance at all.

Experimenting Real


Well, experimenting with dangerous chemicals can often lead to fires, explosions, catastrophes. Experimenting with sex often leads to babies. Experimenting with alcohol can often lead to alcohol-related accidents.

Experimenting with anything always carries big risks. And taking risks often leads to huge mistakes with extremely high costs.

Coming Out Real

Secrets eat up people from the inside out, showing up in your face, your eyes, your stance. Then depression sets in. Then, and then, and then. Stuffing secrets just doesn’t work.

Clinging to ignorance in the face of scientific evidence and knowledge is folly. It’s gambling with the lives of hapless drug addicts.

I applaud Katie Granju. I think her ordeal and writing real will help keep me on track. And who knows, our experiences and coming forth with them could help the family members of even the harshest critics.

And my heart is with her and with H.


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