Archive for May, 2009

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Room for Two

May 28, 2009

It finally happened.  Something I’ve been afraid of for many years did indeed happen to me and I write this blog entry knowing I may be throwing my reputation down the toilet.  

I am a person who respects rules;  I am a considerate person.  I would NEVER park in a handicapped parking space.    Even when I had surgery on both of my feet at the same time, and had a temporary handicapped parking sticker I didn’t park there.  I could just see someone in a wheelchair needing that space more than me.

But when I had Riley, I started using the handicapped stalls in the ladies room.   This was different than the parking spaces, I reasoned.  They aren’t ONLY for people with handicaps.  When there’s a long line, women go into whichever stall comes open first, and lugging around a little girl and all the stuff that goes along with her took up too much room for a “regular-size” stall.   You can’t just leave a little girl out there by herself, now, can you?   And yet, it always crossed my mind: how would I feel if someone came into the ladies room in a wheelchair and I was occupying the only stall they could use.   “We need room for two” I told myself, and so Riley and I have made ourselves comfortable in what we call the “big” stall in public restrooms. 

Habits die hard I guess and at a restaurant recently, I went into a ladies room with only two stalls: one “regular” and one “big.”   After 8 1/2 years of going into bathrooms that could accommodate both me and Riley, I chose the “big” stall even though I was alone.  That’s when it happened:  a lady in a wheelchair came into the restroom and had to wait for me before she could use the facilities.   I saw the wheels under the door and my heart sank.  Why hadn’t I gone into the “regular” stall?   I came out quickly, smiled at her apologetically and said “Sorry–I usually need room for two.”  She gave me a pleasant but confused smile and I quickly explained “My almost-9 year old daughter is usually with me.”  

That’s when she laughed.  She told me she had also used the “big” stalls when she was toting her own children around and in a way it made it more comfortable for her to use them when she got MS and had to start using the chair.   I thanked her for letting me off the hook; and I promise not to use the “big” stall  anymore…unless I need room for two.

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17 Again…

May 17, 2009

osmondefron“I have to see ’17 Again’ Mom,” my daughter Riley said to me.  “Zac Efron’s in it!”  she persisted.  “He’s so CUTE!”   She’s right.  He IS cute.  And talented.  And he seems to be a nice young man–the Donny Osmond of her generation which is why I understand this crush so completely.  

I was 8 years old when I bought my first “Tiger Beat” magazine with Donny Osmond on the cover.  His shaggy hair, his beautiful teeth, his wholesome Mormon values all making me feel completely mushy inside every time I’d THINK of him.   I devoured every fact I could about Donny, information which mainly came from magazines since Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet in 1973.    I saved my lunch money to buy his albums (both solo and with the Osmond Brothers), bought every magazine that had a photo of him, and faithfully watched the Donny & Marie Show every Friday night on TV.  The Osmond Brothers was my first concert; somehow my mom got tickets in the 15th row.  I wrote Donny a letter and folded it into a paper airplane, hoping it would reach the stage and that somehow, he would find it, we would meet and fall in love (I was 12, he was 19) and live happily ever after. 

Of course, it didn’t happen.  My paper airplane ended up on the floor in row 13.  But years later, I got a second chance with Donny.   I went with 3 of my girlfriends to see Donny in the lead role of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Masonic Theater in Detroit.   Sitting in the balcony, the voice I heard singing from offstage was unmistakable:  Donny!  MY Donny!   From somewhere deep inside a volcano of emotion erupted:  my childhood, my first crush–all these years later still so fresh in my heart–brought tears to my eyes.   After the show, my friends and I went to the Stage Door to ask if we might meet him.  

“He doesn’t come down after the matinee, just after the evening show,” the receptionist said. 

“What if I wrote him a note, could you get it to him?” I asked.   She directed me to a burly, Mr. T looking guy who was apparently Donny’s bodyguard.   I explained we would like to meet Donny and he agreed to give him my note, with no guarantees that he would respond.   To this day, my girlfriends and I can all recite the words I wrote to Donny:  “Dear Donny, I know you must be exhausted after such an amazing performance, but we have traveled hundreds of miles (one girl flew in from Washington DC) and have waited years to meet you.  We are not crazy stalkers.  We are professional women trying to fulfill a childhood dream.   Sincerely, Chrys, LuAnn, Jan, and Deb.”

30 minutes later, “Mr. T” returned with a mean look on his face and said “You’ve got 5 minutes.  Follow me.”   Our hearts were pounding as we went up the stairs.  Moments later, Donny came out of his dressing room, freshly showered, wearing a blue terry bath robe and looking EXACTLY as I had imagined for all those years.    “Hello,”  he said with a hint of shyness, “I’m Donny.”   He was gracious, generous, sweet and kind.  Everything I’d always imagined.  He even gave us the “scoop” that he would be teaming up with his sister Marie for a television talk show in the fall.  It was a brief, but meaningful encounter that I will never forget.  One that made me feel “17 again.”

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“Riley’s Mom”

May 11, 2009

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”   —Elizabeth Stone

My mother’s day started a little earlier than I’d hoped.   “Mom?”  a little voice said to me before 9 AM (which is early for me on a Sunday!)   When I managed to open one eye, there stood my daughter Riley, with tray in hand.  “Happy Mother’s Day!!”  she said, a wide smile consuming her little face.  

“What’s this, Riley?”  I asked. 

“I made you breakfast in bed, for Mother’s Day!”     There on a tray was a chocolate covered donut, a piece of peanut butter toast and a glass of milk–the breakfast of champions.   I am NOT a breakfast person and instantly my mind flashed back more than 3 decades when I tried this same thing on MY mom at 6:30 on a Saturday morning!   You know what they say about paybacks.   

“Wow…I don’t know if I can eat all this.”  I started, forcing my other eye open and trying my best to sit up.   

Her enthusiasm was NOT to be quashed.   “Just eat it and then you can go back to sleep for awhile.”  she reasoned.   I took a bite out of the peanut butter toast.  “Did I do a good job?”  She grinned?  

“Riley, it’s the best peanut butter toast I’ve ever had.” I said with pride, watching her smile get impossibly bigger.  

Riley and "Riley's Mom."

Riley and "Riley's Mom."

“Since you’re awake now, I have a couple of presents for you,”  she said, handing me two homemade presents:  a flower pot she had painted with marigolds growing inside, and a homemade “Time Magazine” with the title “Chrys Peterson: Mom of the Year!”   As I read every page and looked at all the hand-drawn pictures, my heart felt like it was about to burst with love for this little girl I brought into the world almost 9 years ago.  A little girl who’s given me endless joy and the title I cherish most in my life:  “Riley’s Mom.”

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The Face of Courage

May 6, 2009
Connie Culp reveals her new face

Connie Culp reveals her new face. Click picture to see how doctors did it.

It was a medical breakthrough that had reporters on the edge of their seats:  they were about to meet the Cleveland Clinic’s first face transplant patient.  What they saw was the face of courage.  Five years after Connie Culp was shot in the face and permanently disfigured, she was ready to face the cameras and the scrutiny, and although she knew the media circus was for her, she asked that we remember others.   “I think it’s more important to focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person’s face,”  Connie said.

No, she’s not the same attractive woman she was 5 years ago before her husband Thomas shot her in the face with a shotgun in a failed murder-suicide.   But she’s also not the same disfigured woman she was just a year ago when she had no nose, no sense of smell, no way to eat, no confidence to brave the stares she’d get in public.   “Society rejected her,” Dr. Maria Siemionow told the news crews.  “People called her names, children were afraid of her.”    Dr. Siemionow has given her back the nose, her sense of smell, the ability to eat her favorite foods, and the courage to face people again.  Her smile’s not all there yet…but doctors believe it will be soon as her nerves and muscles learn how to work together again.       

Connie’s message for us?  Remember the Golden Rule:  “Don’t judge people who don’t look the same as you do.  You never know…one day it might all be taken away.”   A viewer called after seeing this story on News 11 and said “I think her new face looks a little like that comic strip character “Cathy” and we all love her!”

Five years ago, Connie Culp liked what she saw in the mirror.  I hope she loves the face she sees now.