‘In Flanders Fields’

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Canadian Lt. Colonel John McCrae

Ninety-four years ago, the Armistice was signed to end World War I, “the war to end all wars.” Hostilities ended in most of Europe and a fragile peace was achieved in the following June when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France. For Americans, November 11th is Veterans Day. In other parts of the world, it is Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. This short poem by Canadian physician and Lt. Colonel John McCrae was written in 1915 in the wake of his friend’s funeral; and it is read in memory of those who died in this very bloody conflict.

“The War to End All Wars” was the maiden conflict of a century of warfare. Untold millions died untimely and unnatural deaths since the end of this heralded conflict. Civilians and soldiers side by side spilled their blood. From the fields of Flanders to the diplomatic base in Benghazi, blood continues to be spilled, war has not ended.

Politics aside, men and women throughout our country’s history have been willing to give their lives, their blood for this country, for us. They may have felt their lives were wasted; but they were not. They may have felt alone and abandoned on some parallel in Korea, or some jungle in Vietnam; but they were not, not by their families. Some gave their lives under compulsion, some volunteered; regardless, their sacrifice is sacred. And it behooves us as a citizenry to press for changes in our government to minimize this kind of sacrifice. There must be a way.

We have entered the 21st Century still bleeding. “Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” So as is the nature of man, the bleeding will continue. And we will continue to remember.

On the third Thursday of this month, we celebrate Thanksgiving. It is fitting that this month begins with All Souls Day, the day we remember all who have passed, and continues to this day when we remember all who have served and sacrificed, and finally, Thanksgiving, when we remember all we have. Thanksgiving is indeed a balm of Gilead, a comfort to those who mourn. Thank you, Veterans, for your sacrifice and service; and to the heavens, thank You for their lives.


Land of Misfit Toys

The holidays are coming, all the stores have Christmas decorations already. The shows will be on soon too. You have no doubt seen the poignant “Island of Misfit Toys” scene from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph, the protagonist misfit, finds himself with his misfit elf friend on an island with toys that are broken and useless, and because of their condition: unwanted. Rudolph understands how they feel. His glaring red nose caused him to be shunned by his peers and overlooked by Santa.

This classic stands the test of time because we all at one time or another have felt like a misfit, an outcast, unwanted, if you will. It appears to be almost a rite of passage. Dr. Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection writes: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children.” During the holiday season, these feelings of belonging and love are what make the time special; conversely, if conditions are not so healthy, the season can be lonely at best, tortuous at worse.

Our sense of what is worthy to love and want is somewhat skewered. Not many of us are endowed with the beauty that graces the magazine racks at Safeway. Fewer of us have the soaring intellect and amazing persistence that garners PhD.’s like a Hot Wheels collection. And even fewer are born into homes that can provide advantages that only the wealthy can afford.

The message of Christmas, happily, as heralded from the angels is “for all people”. Not to the beautiful or the wise or even the rich. Not the 1%, the 99%, or even that infamous 47%, but the 100%. The Man who was born in a barn brought a message; His irreducible message was and continues to be: You are Loved. A love that transcends deservedness, a love that for most of us is incomprehensible and a love that does not judge. A love for all seasons, for all misfits. A love that meets that need in everyone of us. A love that cost Him His life, so we may have eternal life. True Love.

So instead of pining for perfection and whining for “winning”, we can embrace our misfitness (I made up that word), love it and maybe wrench some good from it. After all, this whole world is really a great big archipelago of islands of misfit toys. There is no place that imperfection does not exist. In the end, Rudolph saves the day, not in spite of his imperfection, but because of it. Our imperfections, which to us seem to alienate us from an ill-perceived perfection, are what really unites and connects us anyway.

I hope you all have a WONDER-ful holiday season.

Hope for the Helicopter Mom

My name is Donna F., and I am a helicopter mom.  I have many children, so one would think my condition was inevitable. On the contrary, early in my parenting endeavor, I just didn’t let my kids go anywhere. When they were young, our yard was big enough to please them.

However, at about 12 or 13, they were hankering to get out the gate. Often, I relented as long as they weren’t alone. At this point, the symptoms were self-evident. Rubber-necking over the fence until I saw them turn the corner, preparations for exit in case of sirens, a reasonable respite while they got to Walgreen’s, did some candy shopping and make their way back to the corner where I could see them. If they violated this inner timetable, the heart palpitations began, my face became flushed (this was before perimenopause) and a host of tragic scenarios sprung from my very active imagination; until, of course, I saw their smiling faces come around the corner. Then I would decompress and try to act like I didn’t freak out at all. No need to worry the kiddies.

I think my condition worsened with the acquisition of cell phones. I let out the leash further with the older kids, the younger ones still stayed inside the gate. I called often, checking up on them. I had all their friends’ numbers. Their friends, being nice as they are, were very patient with my affliction. I prided myself in knowing where each of the ten was. They may have hated me for it though.

I knew I had a problem when I took to texting like a kid takes to Halloween candy. I admit I scoffed at this new form of communication at first; but once I started, there was no stopping. Good thing for me, my children prefer texting to verbal communication. We’ve had many heart-to-hearts via text. I have a collection of favorite texts from my kids. Some are heartwarming. Very few are severe. It may be a little harder for them to text “I hate you” than it is to say it.  Yet, I noticed that even this good thing has limitations.

One time, my older son went into the City on a date. He told me from the get-go that I was allowed five texts. This is where helicopter mom syndrome (HMS) becomes serious. That was a hard night, but I survived with the five texts. I timed them carefully. One – arrive safely? Son – yep. Two – have enough money? Son – yep. Three – don’t be alone in the house? Son – yep, that’s three, Mom. Four (after I waited awhile, lest I push it) – what train will you be on? (I had to get him at the bus stop.) Son – idk. (Yikes! Breathe, just breathe.)  Five – Where the hell are you? This particular child feels it is necessary at times to teach his mother to not worry. So he didn’t answer that one for awhile. Next text from him – be at bus stop in 20 mins. Relief. Don’t you just love teenagers!

Although I am still in the throes of helicopter mom syndrome (having four teenagers still at home), I have learned to trust them, trust them to respond to my texts, trust them and their abilities to get around and trust them to keep their cell phones charged. Once in awhile, I have to fall into Childhood Mother Mode (CMM) when their phones do die or I cannot locate them. When I was growing up, my parents assumed I was at school and then would head home. They didn’t worry if I had missed the bus; they figure I’d get home eventually. So when all my helicopter mom devices are of no use, I have to just trust (and pray). Maybe that’s what parenting comes down to anyway.



The Shepherdess

Years ago, at a church service, the minister prayed over me. As he prayed he said that he saw me as, and I quote from my journal entry, “a shepherdess, gathering the sheep that have gone the wrong way, bringing them back to the right path.” After church, I wrote it down. I wasn’t, and am still not, too sure of its meaning, but from a mother’s point of view, I certainly feel like a shepherdess.

I’m always keeping watch over this flock of mine. When the kids were little, we had a chain link fence all around the property at San Pablo. They were not allowed out the gate. For the most part, this worked, they were able to play all around the yard and I kept an eye on them. My adult children still bemoan the memories of “never going out the gate.” Well, when they turn 18, there are not more gates, no more fences; the shepherdess is no longer needed in that role. Four of my kids are out the gate. I am so proud of them too. Even though I have an adult child who lives with me, he stays pretty close to home and doesn’t give this shepherdess’ heart much worry. However, there are some who like to play close to the fence, that imaginary parameter I set for our kids. When they get close, I have to pay attention.

As I’ve gained experience in being a parent, I’ve adopted a philosophy where I give my kids a lot of freedom within this imaginary yard, if you will. That freedom differs from kid to kid, and of course, gives the appearance of not being fair. (By the way, it will never be fair, ever. Just accept it and move on.) I let Ricky do things I would never let others do because Ricky was so street smart. He outsmarted the buck who chased him from McDonald’s one sunny morning in San Pablo. Ricky was not gonna give up those 15 Sausage Muffins.

I am so thankful for cell phones. Most of my kids here have one, and that gives them more freedom because I can keep tabs on them. For the most part, they respond to my endless calls and texts. They are good sheep. If you look close at the above painting by Millet, it looks like the shepherdess is actually texting. I don’t know about French laws in the 19th Century whether texting while tending sheep was illegal, but I bet that cute shepherdess was texting the neighbor shepherd, “hey dude, meet me at the well at Angelus.” On the 18th birthday of my baby lamb, this shepherdess is going to put her crook down and take a long nap beside some still waters.

‘Delicious Autumn! My Very Soul is Wedded to It …’


September 2019

As a writer, my deepest fear is that the well of ideas will dry up, that the cistern is indeed broken and there is nothing left to share or write about. I don’t think I am alone with that fear; I think many artists feel that way. Before I freeze up and abandon all writing projects because I think I’m a fraud, I go to my treasure chest of ideas, my childhood memories. There are so many real and imagined memories from growing up, that almost each one in itself is a seed for a column. It is my savings account, if you will.

In the ‘60s, my family lived in Santa Rosa for an idyllic five years. We lived on a short street next to the school where passions for poetry, music and geography were born. All the neighborhood kids played together, and I was devastated when we had to move. Apple orchards, sardines in a can and block parties did not accompany us to the City.

One morning, I was walking on Hoen Avenue. I don’t know if I was walking home from St. Eugene’s or to Sambo’s. It was fall, it had sprinkled that morning or the night before, and the quiet road was still damp and peppered with acorns. This memory I cherish because I believe this is the moment I fell in love with autumn. I clearly remember the crunching of the dry leaves which had been umbrelled by the large trees and the crackling of the gravel under my shoes, the cool air was kept out by my warm jacket. The smell of the wet earth and crushed leaves accentuated this brief memory. For 50 years, this ancient memory continues to ignite this glorious season each September.

I echo George Eliot’s praise, Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

The fact that autumn coincides with a return to school only compounds my joy. I loved school growing up, and to go back with this season right around the corner only heightens both experiences. I remember one fall, I think I was in 3rd grade, and I had to write a story for class. I wrote a five page story about Frankenstein, the Wolfman and Dracula. I was so proud of this writing; I wish I had kept it.

Perhaps my best fall memory was when I was living in Half Moon Bay in the ‘70s. I was working for a realtor during the 18% interest rate times, and business was subsequently  slow, so slow that I was dying with boredom. Luckily, he let me read….sweet. I read the entire trilogy of The Lord of the Rings, some of the Bible and old favorites from high school.

This time of my life was filled with floral skirts, clogs and Neil Young songs. The Pumpkin Festival was coming, and pumpkins and produce were everywhere. The landscape was punctuated with orange in freshly tilled fields, and stocks of corn husks and scarecrows dotted the porches of all the businesses. Slices of pumpkin pie were had at the bakery by Cunha’s Market, and daily I was in heaven with an Original Johnny’s cheeseburger. I lived there for one season, but it was one of the most magical seasons of my life. Half Moon Bay is beautiful in the fall.

Even this fall morning, when I opened the door, the off-shore wind boldly and warmly greeted me. Dancing leaves swirled around me like giddy children and wafts of jasmine intoxicated me. It’s going to be a nice day.




Summer vacation is over, and the children are back at school. I do love my kids, but summer vacation is hard on everyone. As a dyed-in-the-wool hare, having no structure to the day sends me and everyone else into a tailspin. The first echoes of “I’m bored” were heard not 48 hours after eighth grade graduation. By July, inquiries were being made as to when school was starting. One child was counting down the weeks, and one was assessing each day, “I’ve done nothing this summer.” And others were honing their skills in “crazy-making” behavior. So, below is my final progress report for the summer of 2012.

Uses of Various Forms of Media — Since I had two writing projects to accomplish this summer, I was depending heavily on our favorite babysitters, Ms. Cable and Mr. Internet. I was tempted to prepay the cable bill three months in advance just to be certain these two were around to help placate the children. They scored high in utilizing electronic media. New accounts at Club Penguin were made, Minecraft was played so much it crashed a computer and various forms of music wailed…I mean wafted up the floor boards. They pass this section with flying colors.

However, use of literary media remains at an all time low. I love books, and I always have suggested to my children that reading them was a way of alleviating boredom. I really did say that, in English; however, it did not translate well into their minds. They need improvement in this area. To one child’s credit though, while reading his summer assigned book from school, he said to me, “Mom, why didn’t you tell me there were good books?” The temptation to defend myself was overcome with my joy that there is hope for these kids and their relationship with literature. “Yes, there are many,” I responded with muffled glee.

Physical Education — my children met standards of sufficient physical activity. One honed her swimming skills, one learned a new trick on the skateboard, hikes were taken, walls were climbed…you get the picture.

Interpersonal Skills — Unfortunately, this is where my children exhibit exceptional skills. Bickering was taken to a new level. The older children have abandoned bickering altogether and have resorted just to yelling and throwing previously said literary media; but the younger ones felt their need to explore how far their talents would take them on this road of excruciatingly annoying communication. “I’m smarter than you.” “No, I am smarter than YOU.” “No, dummy, I am older, that makes me smarter.” Crying, “Mom, she said I was dumb, am I dumb?” Multiply that conversation by the number of days of summer and you know why I had to dye my hair by the end of vacation.

Like I said earlier, I do love my kids, but now I am becoming reacquainted with peace and quiet, and am enjoying their company, at least until 3 o’clock. “Mom, there’s nothing to eat.”



I consider myself relatively hip. I have four teenagers, and they keep me abreast of all the newest music, videos and lingo. I have a Facebook account where I keep in touch with my older kids and reconnect with pals from the past. In fact, my Facebook friends have been a great support and encouragement in my writing career. I have a Twitter account. This I don’t use as much as Facebook. I have a whopping 11 followers, and I follow about 40 people or groups.

I follow a couple C.S. Lewis and Henri Nouwen groups. Their quotes are often very serious, which I don’t mind; but if they’re tweeting up a storm, it can get a little too serious. So in order to lighten up my Twitter page, I follow one of my kids and #Portuguese Problems. Between the two of these followers and the others, I now have a pretty balanced source of information. Beautiful, thoughtful inspirational quotes find themselves next to “We are not alcoholics, we just get thirsty a lot…” and “I don’t wanna be a playaaa nomore.”

I noticed some of my daughter’s tweets referred to #OOMF. She seemed to have an on-going, drama-filled tweet-a-tête with this person. As any attentive mom would do, I tried to find this friend. Was it somebody I knew? I looked through her Twitter friends and couldn’t locate someone with the handle #OOMF. I went into full helicopter mom mode (#HMM) and searched Twitter for this handle. I got really nervous when all these people were tweeting about #OOMF, at about 20 tweets per minute. #WTHWGO?? (What the heck was going on?) How does my daughter know this person who has so many friends, people I did not know at all? I got very nervous that my daughter might be #ISSS.

I finally went to Yahoo and searched #OOMF. Well I had to #BTTU (back the truck up) when I learned that #OOMF means “one of my followers.” #MB (my bad). While I #WEOMF (wiped egg off my face), I whispered a little prayer of thanks like Steve Martin did in “Bringing Down the House”. But, honestly, I did feel even hipper and cooler now that I knew what #OOMF meant. I told my daughter about my little excursion into her world, and after she #ROTFLHBO (figure it out), she said, “That’s dope!” Huh??