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A letter to Uintah Elementary School

2 Feb

A daddy’s open letter to an elementary school that humiliated kids who couldn’t afford lunch. Good stuff.

Daddy's Days & Daze

January 31, 2014

Uintah Elementary School
1571 E 1300 S
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

To the administration of Uintah Elementary School:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am neither a resident of your school district not a relation to any student who attends your facility. What I am is a parent who, like many others across this country and any other nation who learned of your school’s recent actions, can feel nothing short of outrage.

I must ask: What in the name of all that is humane and good in this world were you people thinking?

How could you dare take food away from children in your supposed care during the school day? Simply because their lunch accounts registered as delinquent? This is justification to go from table to table and remove trays from in front of exactly how many students?

Every news article so far read only reports 30-40 students:…

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Grammy Awards, we appreciate the Sunday night grinding lesson

27 Jan
Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Maybe it was wrong to teach my daughter to cross her legs when sitting in a chair.

Thank you, CBS and the Grammy Awards. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways at 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening.

I sincerely appreciate you starting the show with Beyoncé demonstrating the proper way to sit and writhe in a chair. Wear a thong and spread your legs. Got it. It truly was an amazing and child-friendly tutorial on how to use household furnishings as erotic props, and I thank you.

The bonus lesson from Jay Z was pretty awesome as well. He showed that men really don’t “exploit” women in the music industry. Come on, folks. Beyoncé is his wife, and he’s got a baby girl at home. Did you miss hearing him dedicate his Grammy to them? The haters are just jealous they don’t have the courage to publicly embrace their sensuality, and they’re really thinking, “She is a beautiful singer/dancer, AND I’d like to talk to her about her recent paper on advancements in neuropsychiatry.”

I was a bit disappointed about the use of the  seven-second delay on some of the lyrics. Thankfully, some of the good stuff got through, and I was able to read lips for the other things. A few folks may consider it censorship because you bleeped lyrics that showcased the beautiful intimacy of love between a man and woman. Where would our world be without a couple singing loving affirmations such as, “I’m rubbing on it, rub-rubbing” and “Slid the panties right to the side; ain’t got the time to take drawers off?”

The performance reminded me of a speech the late curmudgeon Fred Rogers shared when he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame:

Fame is a four-letter word; and like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen–day and night! …We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways. (From The World According to Mister Rogers (Kindle Locations 540-558).)

Thank you for meeting America’s deeper needs, CBS.

Mamapedia names Roadkill Goldfish’s “Dear Daughter” the best post of 2013

3 Jan

Mamapedia selected “Dear Daughter, Let Miley Cyrus be a Lesson to You” as THE top post of 2013 based on the most views, comments and social media sharing.

THANK YOU, Mamapedia readers! I am humbled and honored to be included in the list, and I commend the other awesome writers and fellow moms who are part of the Mamapedia sisterhood.

See the Top 10 now.

New daddy-blogger brings tattoos and piercings to parenthood

3 Jan

He’s got tattoos, piercings and a love for cardigans.

He’s also the devoted daddy of kindergarten-queen Lily and precocious preschooler Keefer.  

Craig Spence started blogging just a few  months ago, and he’s quickly become one of my favorite up-and-coming young writers. I had the pleasure of meeting him in August 2013, and I was immediately impressed by his honesty, wisdom, edginess and fatherhood-on-the-front-line attitude.

Check him out at I personally enjoyed his post on how he used Lily’s first grounding to introduce the kids to classic radio dramas.

The diagnosis that changed my life

4 Dec

Part of my brain does not play well with others.

A section has decided to jack up some its special nerve cells so they do a lousy job sending signals to the part of my brain that controls movement. The movement section of the brain doesn’t know how to handle it, and it’s acting out by messing with my coordination and causing tremors and muscle jerks on the right side of my body.

My first neurologist believed I have the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. A second neurologist wasn’t ready to call it Parkinson’s, but she couldn’t rule it out either. She wanted me to try medication to control the tremors.  A third neurology specialist reviewed my MRIs after a lesion was found in the white matter of my right temporal lobe. He’s confident the thing is benign and isn’t causing my symptoms. (The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. My movement issues impact my right side.) His approach is “let’s rescan your brain in six months to see if this thing changes.”  I’m good with that; I would like to keep all my brain cells and I really don’t need a hole in my head at this point in my life.

I thought I was perpetually stressed out

My symptoms began about eight years ago with a slight tremor in my right hand. Friends and family members noticed it, but I brushed it off as preschooler-induced stress. I was jacked up on perpetual adrenaline because my 2-year-old son liked being a death-defying stuntman.

The tremor continued for several years, and I continued to blame stress even though life was relatively peaceful. My son grew out of his crash test dummy phase, my daughter thrived at school, my husband had a great job, my career was going well, and the dogs were well-behaved roughly 70 percent of the time.  However, circumstances changed earlier this year.  I took a job in a very tense environment, and my tremor went into overdrive. I did my best to hide my shaking hand, but the tremor looked like I was mainlining pure espresso. A doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medicine, and while the drug made it easier to handle the work drama, it did nothing to ease the shaking. Muscle jerks were soon added to my repertoire of involuntary movements.

I finally gave in and went to see the first neurologist, a woman who specializes in movement disorders.  She conducted a variety of  tests and brain scans and eventually told me she suspected I had the early stages of Parkinson’s. There is no neurological reaction or medical test that definitively identifies Parkinson’s, but I do have several of the classic symptoms: my hand tremor never stops; I no longer swung my right arm when I walk; my coordination is a little off; and frat boys on Bourbon Street have better balance than I do.

My reaction: Control freak and hot mess at the same time

I wish I could say I had a very mature and reasonable reaction to the initial diagnosis, but I did not. I lost it in the hospital parking lot by crying, yelling and vomiting on a fellow patient’s tires.

I drove home and said nothing for the rest of the day; however, my mind raced with thoughts about how this was going to impact my family’s future. I eventually told my husband, children and other family members. I spent the next two weeks on an emotional roller coaster. I had good minutes, and I had bad minutes. My faith has always been very important to me, but I was too overwhelmed to pray.

I soon opened up to my inner circle.  My church family brought us dinners and picked up my kids from school. Lifelong friends who knew me during my mall hair days called me, wrote notes of encouragement and prayed. My mom drove eight hours just so she could prepare some of my comfort foods.

As a self-professed control freak, it was very difficult to open up and admit I needed help from others. I thought I could handle it all on my own, but in reality, I couldn’t. It was immensely comforting to know others cared and WANTED to be there for me.

It’s been like living with a gorilla

After several weeks with puffy eyes, a red nose and horribly ineffective make-up, I can honestly say I have peace about the situation. The second and third opinions have given me hope, but it’s still frustrating that no one can tell me exactly what is happening in my head.  The drugs have calmed the tremor a little bit, but they make me feel drunk and confused.  I don’t like what is happening, but I’m dealing with it.

This process has been like living with a gorilla.  The initial diagnosis introduced me to a big scary gorilla that was constantly on my back. It was with me everywhere I went, and it beat the emotional, physical and spiritual snot out of me.  Thanks to the second opinions, the gorilla got off my back and moved into another room of the house. (True to gorilla nature, it sometimes grabs a handful of excrement and throws it at my head.) It is still big and scary, but it isn’t with me all the time, and I know I don’t have to carry its weight alone. I hope the gorilla will soon move into the attic so I don’t have to see it at all; however, I acknowledge it will probably escape a few times and try to get on my back or fling crappy stuff at me. In time, I will have the strength  to pick up that bad boy and shove him back in the attic.

In the meantime, I  just have to let the gorilla tag along for more doctor’s visits, physical therapy sessions and drug experiments. He’s realized he can’t stop me, and I’ve realized he isn’t as big and scary as I first thought he was.



Lifting up prayers for friends in the Philippines; please donate to relief efforts

10 Nov
Residents gather salvageable materials from the ruins of houses after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Erik De Castro,

Residents gather salvageable materials from the ruins of houses after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city.
Photo courtesy REUTERS/Erik De Castro,

I saw the pictures, and I cried.

Debris and bodies covered what used to be city streets. Survivors clutched each other as they navigated through flood waters to find safety. Families frantically searched for loved ones or wept over those lost to the storm.

The people of the Philippines are now reeling from one of the worst natural disasters in history.  Authorities estimate Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit Nov. 10, may have taken as many as 10,000 lives in the island nation.

How you can help
Pray. Be a strong shoulder for your Filipino neighbors. Make a financial gift to aid organizations such as the Red Cross, CARE, Samaritan’s Purse, Catholic Relief Services or World Vision. Please go to these organizations’ websites to learn more or donate online.

Red Cross
Samaritan’s Purse
World Vision
Catholic Relief Services

Please do not gather supplies
Please do not gather supplies that require shipment. My former job with an international shipping company allowed me to help coordinate disaster relief shipments, and I quickly learned that although public-donated items come from the heart, they can hinder relief efforts. When a tsunami raced through the Indian Ocean in 2004,  there were countless well-meaning donations of items such as cold-weather clothing  and canned meats like Spam and sausages. The items were neither needed nor wanted –  donors did not understand the tsunami hit a tropical area with a large Muslim population.

It is infinitely faster and more effective to let aid organizations collect bulk donations or purchase needed items from regions nearer to the site. These groups know what is needed, and many companies work directly with them by donating ship-ready pallets of  food, clean up supplies, medicines, clothing and shelter items. Unsolicited materials, especially those from far-away locations like the U.S., take valuable time and resources away from relief efforts because volunteers must sort through the donations, pack them, pay for shipment (money that could be used for needed items) and then find distribution sites and volunteers in the hard-hit areas.

On a personal note
There are several Fish Friends in the Philippines who have reached out to me after the “Dear Daughter” post. I am fervently praying for their safety today; however, given the devastation, I fear some of them may have lost their lives in the storm.

There are no platitudes that can take away the pain of such loss, but as a believer, there is comfort in knowing God has lifted their souls from the rushing water and into his peaceful kingdom today.

Please do what you can to help our friends in the Philippines. To the survivors, know that we love you and help is on the way.

Meniere’s Disease: It’s like a perpetual thrill ride without the fun

15 Jul

An inner ear disorder makes me avoid quick movements, Japanese cartoons, patterned floors and Joy Behar.

Meniere's diagram

My head is its own perpetual thrill ride.

If I move my head too quickly, everything starts spinning. Floors feel like they are dropping or being carried away by ocean waves. If I’m around a strobe light, the air around me starts to pulsate and the blinking colors replay in my head for hours.  If the room is quiet, I can hear the sound of buzzing  bees or feedback squeals from a microphone. Sometimes, I can barely hear at all even though I’m surrounded by noise.

Welcome to the world of Meniere’s Disease. It’s a chronic condition caused by an imbalance of inner ear fluid that creates spontaneous vertigo, tinnitus and hearing loss.

The inner ear is home to a fluid-filled cavity that is lined with hair-like sensors. The sensors respond to movement in the fluid and help the body assess motion, balance and sound. However, this fluid needs to retain a certain volume, pressure and composition so that the sensors can work properly. When the fluid goes rogue, people like me end up hugging a floor.

My jacked-up ear fluid can make an ordinary day feel like a trip to Six Flags, minus the $64.99 admission fee. When my inner ear rebels, I feel the sensations you would feel on the Tilt-A-Whirl ride or after a game of Dizzy Izzy. Walking is difficult, but staggering around and falling sideways are very easy. Face-to-face conversations are challenging because my rapidly darting eyes make others think I’m watching a ping-pong game while I’m talking to them.

There is no cure for Meniere’s, and treatment options are limited. My diagnosis 14 years ago led to me limiting my salt consumption so that my body doesn’t retain extra fluid.  I take Antivert to reduce the vertigo, antihistamines to reduce fluid in the ear and Valium to slow everything down when the inevitable episode does hit. I also do my best to avoid things that I know will trigger an episode. My list of triggers is weird and sad:

  • Police cars:  I react to the flashing blue lights.
  • Japanese  cartoons:  I am living proof that some folks fall out watching these.
  • Patterned floors: I can’t  walk on them because the patterns look they are moving.
  • Ocean  waves: I used to love sitting on the beach and watching the waves roll in.  It was  gloriously peaceful. Thanks to Meniere’s, my body feels like it’s being pulled and pushed along with each wave.
  • Jazzercise and  Zumba: The quick  movements make me dizzy. I am also ridiculously uncoordinated.
  • Light  shows: Twinkling  Christmas lights are so beautiful and playful, but I can enjoy them only in very small doses.  Sadly, I will never be able to enjoy a  Pink Floyd Experience laser light show at my local planetarium.
  • Electronica music: Not a  huge personal loss.
  • 3-D and IMAX movies: I felt cheated by having to watch the flat screen version of “Avatar.”
  • Airplanes: Take-off  and landing mess with my head. I confess to using the helpful bag located in the seatback pocket MANY times.
  • Amusement  parks: When your head is its own thrill ride, who needs amusement parks? I do. I used  to LOVE rollercoasters.  When the Rip Ride RockIt opened at Universal Studios, I was determined to ride it.  I knew better. The ride video, which I forbade my family from purchasing, shows my eyes rolling around my head and my numerous attempts to keep from  spewing. I struggled with walking and nausea for two days after that  incident. Today, my amusement park participation is limited to holding    purses and water bottles while my family rides.
  • “The View:” I’m not kidding. The women on this show trigger episodes of vertigo and  hearing loss for me.

Despite medicines and trigger avoidance, Meniere’s episodes can still pop up out of nowhere. The inner ear decides to proclaim, “I OWN YOU! Sit your butt down and don’t move!” You have no choice but to comply. I’ve met other Meniere’s sufferers who have been bedridden for days because the spinning won’t stop. A few are afraid to drive because they fear a sudden attack. The symptoms can be so unpredictable and debilitating that some Meniere’s sufferers are unable to work.

Thankfully, my symptoms have not incapacitated me for long stretches. I’ve been able to accept the episodes, but I certainly do not like them. My doctor suggested a surgical procedure that would stop my episodes by destroying the inner ear and its connecting nerves.  The procedure would also destroy my ability to hear.  Most people have Meniere’s in only one ear, and after surgery, the other ear easily compensates for hearing loss. However, Meniere’s impacts both of my ears and has already caused some permanent hearing loss on each side.

Even with the promise of relief, I don’t want to have the surgery.  As much as I hate the spinning, buzzing noise and nausea, I love the sounds of my life – my kids’ voices, music, laughter, rain and even bubble wrap.

I also love thrill rides –  but only when they’re not in my head.

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