Tag Archives: Daughters

June 4 – A “Dad-Shaped Hole” in My Heart

by Kali´Rourke

Father’s Day approaches, and although I rejoice in the wonderful Dad that my daughters have, I take no such joy in my own.

He was an unsolvable mystery to me. He married my mother when she was seventeen and they had me when she was nearly nineteen. My only impressions of him as I grew up came from family members who shared stories of his selfish, immature treatment of Mom during their short marriage. He seemed unable to connect emotionally with others, and from an adult perspective, I wonder if he may have been somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Soon after my birth, my mother divorced him and married her next husband. He was the one I would think of as “Dad” until that marriage dissolved when I was about six or seven years old.

My father checked back in briefly when I was fifteen; traveling from Memphis to Tulsa to sue for my custody when my mother temporarily gave my guardianship to my manager. I was a professional singer living in Oklahoma with my manager while my family stayed in Washington.

He strode into the courtroom, acting as his own attorney, and seemed totally oblivious to the realities of the situation (no, my mother was not giving me away) or any emotions I might have about meeting him for the first time. He lost his case, but my manager graciously invited him to her home to meet with me. I sang for him for the first and last time in my life, and tears came to his eyes.

Silly me; I thought we might have connected.

Later, I received a bus ticket to travel to Memphis to spend a week with him and his latest wife (he married multiple times) and I must admit, I was hopeful. My strongest memory of this ill-fated expedition was meeting his wife, who immediately gave me a gift. It was a set of shorty pajamas in bright colors and I was thrilled. I wore them when I went to bed and made sure that they knew that I was delighted with the present.

The next morning, she scolded me for “flaunting myself at my father,” making me feel foolish and ashamed. My father said nothing at all. I called Mom, told her I would be taking the next bus home and left, never to see him again.

I find myself wondering how much emotional damage and insecurity his wife suffered in that marriage. He and I spoke a few times over the phone through the years, (I suspect Grandma made him do it.) but he had no real interest in me or his beautiful granddaughters and I eventually wrote him off.

“Ignore me if you like, but my daughters will never deserve that,” I thought.

When he committed suicide in prison at the age of 59, it was as if a stranger had died, leaving the “Dad-Shaped Hole” in my heart to be forever unfilled.


Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.


March 22 – Food Wars

by Gretchen Staebler

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I return home from my small-town escape to the closest city for yoga, grocery shopping, the Farmers’ Market for fruit and a sweet treat for Mama’s breakfast, and Trader Joe’s to stock up on medicinal wine. It’s a weekly outing that keeps me sane. As I leave Olympia, I round the bend toward the I-5 exchange and as it does every time, Mt. Rainier reaches into my throat and grabs my breath away. For this, I moved across the country to care for my mother. I’m about to appreciate the reminder.

I unload the car and take my purchases into the kitchen where Mama is hovering in the room that was always hers alone. I am still the child at my mother’s knee here. I get daily instructions on how to load the dishwasher, proper placement of the can opener in the drawer, and the best way to wipe up spills on the floor.

“I went to the Farmers’ Market,” I tell her, proud of my purchases, back to trying to please my mother, like I’m 15, not 60.

“Did you get any good vegetables?” she asks, ignoring what I did get.

I breathe deeply, and with measured calmness say, “No, you went to the produce stand yesterday; I didn’t think we needed anything.”

Mama gasps, “You didn’t look for tomatoes? Always look for ‘good’ tomatoes!” I roll my eyes, which her lousy vision prevents her from seeing, but say nothing.

I put away the groceries, then feed my cat and return to the kitchen.

While not cooking the dinner I had planned because she says she doesn’t think she should eat pasta today, I ask: “Where did these grape tomatoes on the counter come from?”

“The produce stand yesterday.”

“There are also grape tomatoes in the refrigerator,” I say, irritated that things go to waste because she and her paid caregiver buy duplicates.

Mama looks at them and gasps in disgust: “They are from…Safeway!”

Throwing the box–literally–into the back of the refrigerator, I explode, “Oh, for gawd’s sake!” Not letting it go, I add, “And here is a big tomato that is going bad.” I take it from the refrigerator and put it on the counter, resisting the urge to slam it. A few minutes later, Mama picks it up.

“What’s wrong with this tomato?”

“I just said it needs to be eaten. It has some bad spots,” I spit.

As I finish plating dinner, she says, “I’m going to eat this tomato you were going to throw away.”

“I wasn’t going to throw it away.”

“You said you were.”

“No, I did not say that. I just said there are tomatoes that need to be eaten. And you chastised me for not getting more.”

“I didn’t say that.”

I want to scream, but I breathe deeply and respond with Buddhist calm: “You said I should have gotten some at the Farmers’ Market.”

“Oh,” says Mama, “I guess I remember saying that.”

I will lose my mind.

Gretchen Staebler is a Pacific Northwest native, transplanted to the Southeast and back again 36 years later. She blogs at www.daughteronduty.wordpress.com about the education, frustration, and occasional humor of living for nearly four years with her almost 100-year-old mother, and the déją vu of living in her childhood home. Hopefully without losing her mind.

January 21 – A Daughter, Sand Angels, and the Sun

by Tania Pryputniewicz

I woke curmudgeonly grumpy from a tangle of blankets, one son’s knees grazing my spine, husband and Husky hugging the far wall. At my feet, my middle son. Parallel to the bed on the floor, my twelve year old daughter, hair smothered by pillows as I turned off the alarm. Transplanted from northern to southern California, I should have been overjoyed after three years of two-city living without my husband to be reunited under one roof.

But I’d acquired a hyper-vigilance due to raising our children alone–a “too-little-to-go-around” self whose reaction to any sentence starting with, “Mom” opened with, “What?…can’t you see I’m….” x, y, z. My daughter, with infinite patience last year, drew note after note decorated with rainbow letters, “Can I come down for tea with you tonight?” Fatigued, as hard as I tried, I felt locked in internal sorrow, afraid I’d never rise above our circumstances to be larger of heart.

I feel my shortcomings as a mom most intensely in relation to my daughter. Because we are both firstborns? Female? Because her brothers’ needs seem easier? I only know I’m more conflicted with her. And she has no qualms about letting me know how I’ve failed her. Which took me to some dark places last year (given the struggle to raise the children, work, hold down the fort, and stave off the ever present poet’s dream of writing a poem worthy of eternity).

But even as we wrangled, I understood the only way was “through”–not over, not around, not under, but through. The sun would rise; I’d try again. Some nights we had tea; others I deferred to stacks of student papers, dishes, or her brothers, especially during the month the littlest broke his elbow and needed surgery.

We’ve only been in the new city for two weeks, but my shoulders have dropped several inches now that two adults absorb the field of the kids’ needs. The one place that soothes all of us remains the ocean, mercifully close by here as it was up north, so instinctively, we keep the ritual.

Within moments, I’m photographing patterns–the retreating waves make sand angels below each beached pebble everywhere I look. My girl comes abreast of me and delights in the find. My husband salvages a purple bucket and one tiny green plastic soldier; the boys catapult down the sand dunes. The Husky runs leashless in wide arcs, nipping at the waves.

Dusk finds my daughter and I walking together. She’s willowy, lovely, inching towards adolescence. Hard to believe soon she’ll yearn less and less for my attention. I ask her to stop long enough for a double self-portrait. Finally, we get it right, shoulder to shoulder, positioning the setting sun so it crowns half of her face. We found that when you tilt just far enough apart, the light of the sun breaks into a gold-red fan of spokes across both faces like a blessing.

Tania lives in southern California with her husband, three children, husky, and two disoriented housecats still recovering from the move. A poet by night (MFA, Iowa Writers’ Workshop) and a writing teacher by day, she is heading into her second year of teaching Transformative Blogging for SCN (next class starts February 4th) and is writing a book for women bloggers.

May 13 – Mother’s Day

by Fran S.

August 30th has become the happiest and saddest day of my life. On August 30, 1967, my lovely daughter, Simone, was born with a head full of curly black hair. This first child (and first grandchild on the maternal side of the family) was a blessing. When I held her for the first time, I felt pure love. On August 30, 2012, I sat in a crowded courtroom in Florida where a cynical judge announced that my second child, my son, might be going to prison for a long time. When I heard the news, I felt pure fear.

My adult son has been challenged with a serious mental health illness (bipolar disorder).Like many bipolar individuals, he has self-medicated with illegal drugs. He’s been in and out of treatment, in and out of mental health facilities, in and out of trouble. Our family has experienced the joy of recovery and the sorrow of relapse. We speculate on “what if,” ask ourselves “why,” and wonder, “how can this be?” What if I hadn’t lent him money when he was broke? What if I hadn’t believed him when he lied? What if I hadn’t divorced?

Why God? Why me? Why again?

And how can this be? I’m a professional. I owe a nice home. I drive a nice car. I have a loving extended family and caring friends. My son graduated from a good college. He worked for the National Basketball Association in Europe. He comes from a good family. How could this have happened? Turns out that no one is exempt from addiction. The disease cuts across gender, race, nationality and affects family members, friends, employers, and co-workers. Seventy-six million Americans, about 43% of the U.S. adult population, are exposed to alcoholism in a family.

This coming Sunday is another special day. Mother’s Day. Since my daughter is working in South America and has limited phone access and my son is in jail, I doubt that I’ll receive a phone call or a card. And forget about flowers. But I plan to honor it anyway. I’m having brunch with two of my twelve step friends. Three moms whose offspring are troubled. No doubt we’ll vent. But also we’ll help one another “accept the things we cannot change.” And that’s a big step toward coping with the tragic news I received on August 30, 2012.

Fran is new to Story Circle Network. She recently attended her first conference and looks forward to future experiences with SCN.

April 4 – Holding Space

By Kali’ P. Rourke

My husband and I just visited our older daughter’s law school for a “Parents and Friends Day.”

It was a revelation in many ways. Our daughter had shared the school with us in a small tour when we visited earlier in the year, but this was the official version. She and a friend are regularly leading tours for prospective students in their spare time, and so they were assigned to our group. We got to see them do their actual spiel. It was wonderful, and they were so good at pointing out everything from architectural features to history, while sharing their positive experiences as first year law students at Vanderbilt.

We know, of course, that it is actually the hardest thing our daughter has ever done. We know the challenges, difficulties, disappointments and her feelings because she shares many of them with us. We listen, commiserate, encourage and try very hard not to direct her or solve her problems. They are truly hers to deal with as she sees fit along the way.

I recently participated in a spiritual leadership pilgrimage retreat and along with meditation and observation techniques, we learned about “holding space” for another person.

Feel free to try it yourself. Try consciously letting another person do all of the talking for just five minutes. You say nothing, but listen intently and hold that time for them to talk about whatever is on their mind…or even to stay silent.

I won’t kid you; it is incredibly hard to do. Your mind will try to race to the next thing you want to say, or a story that relates to what they are saying. There may be many distractions that will try to divert you from your intent. If you can tame those impulses and stay on course, the rewards are surprising.

As human beings, we crave one thing almost as much as we crave sustenance, shelter and safety. We crave to be understood. When we find understanding, we are so grateful and feel such a strong connection to those we feel offer it to us.

You can offer this gift to your spouse, your children, your friends and family…anyone! Just hold space for them in a conversation. You can tell them you are doing this, or just do it. You can ask for the same gift from another person after they have experienced it. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.

Thanks for holding space for me while I shared this with you.

Kali’ is a proud Mom, Wife, Philanthropist, Semi-Pro Board Member, Genealogist, Geek and Diva. She believes in being a force for positive change in Austin, Texas…in ways both big and small.

January 2 – A Grandma is Born

by Linda Hoye

January 2, 2009

The phone rings just before 6 a.m. as I’m throwing a Lean Cuisine into my bag and getting ready to race out the door for work. It’s my daughter, Laurinda and it’s the phone call I’ve been waiting for.

“We’re going to the hospital,” she tells me quietly when I pick up the phone.

We talk briefly and after we end our call, I do a little dance I’ve perfected over the past nine months and dubbed the “grandma dance.” Then I race upstairs to my office where I log on to my computer and search for the earliest flight that will take me from Seattle, Washington to Calgary Alberta. I don’t think twice as I enter my credit card numbers on the airline website to pay the exorbitant fee for a last-minute reservation; I wouldn’t miss being there to welcome my grandchild into the world no matter how much it cost.

Six hours later I’ve gone from a dark and rainy Pacific Northwest morning to a frigid but sunny Canadian afternoon. The hospital lobby is alive with activity and filled with the smiling faces of people carrying stuffed animals, balloons and flowers. My gaze rests on other women who appear to be near my age and I share a subtle smile with them. I feel like I’m about to become a new member of an exclusive club I’ve longed to join, and the “grandma smile” is like the secret handshake.

When I arrive on the labor and delivery floor and locate the swinging doors that lead me toward pending grandma-hood, I shove them open and confidently step into the ward. The nurse at the desk looks up and inquires if I am the mother of an expectant mother on the ward.

Can’t you tell by the crazy grin on my face? I want to ask her, but instead I just smile my goofy grandma-smile and nod.


There are windows in the swinging doors between the waiting room and the labor and delivery ward. I keep an eye on those windows and every sound from behind the doors makes me stand and look down the hall in the direction of Laurinda’s room. Finally I see her husband, Gord, striding down the hall with a smile the size of the Bow River on his face.

“It’s a girl!” he exclaims as he pushes through the doors. “And she’s beautiful!”

“Congratulations, Dad!” I throw my arms around him and offer a silent prayer of thanks while I follow him back down the hall wiping tears from my eyes.

Laurinda is sitting up in bed, smiling and crying at the same time. There is an indescribable glow about her.

“Congratulations, Mommy!” I embrace her and kiss her forehead.

Satisfied that she is okay I turn toward the baby warmer. A nurse is bustling about and Gord is videotaping. They clear a path for me to get closer to the warmer. My granddaughter, eyes wide open, is looking around as if to take in the sights of this new world she has arrived in.

I reach over and gently take her tiny hand in mine as I lean over and whisper so only she can hear. “Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you!”

Linda Hoye is a devoted and somewhat-fanatical grandma who is missing her granddaughter more than usual today. She lives in Washington state with her husband and their two doted-upon Yorkshire Terriers. Linda blogs at A Slice of Life Writing.

November 5 – A Tid Bit Nipply

By Becky T. Lane

When my son was very young, he tried to tell us that it was “a tad nippy”, but came out with those words above instead, causing my husband and I to convulse with laughter. Of course, we’ve been using his special phrase ever since. Considering how it felt when I wandered out just now, to snap a picture of my frosty little truck, I’d say it’s most appropriate.

I strayed into Soda Land this summer, when it was so very hot and I had so much of the stuff left over from a family reunion, but now that the weather has turned “nipply”, I have fallen back in love with the perfect cup of tea. Even more so since being reminded recently, of how much difference time and intention can make.

My two favorite teas are Republic of Tea’s cranberry blood orange and apricot decaf. Only problem is, they’re dang expensive! Around $13 for a can of 50 teabags. Needless to say, I don’t buy them often, and I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that the grocery store varieties are perfectly fine.

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my daughter. “Mom, you’re not gonna believe this! Guess what I just found?” From the tremor in her voice, I was guessing a bag full of cash? The man of your dreams? But no, it was something even better. Turns out, Central Market sells our favorite R.o.T. flavors, in bulk, for half of what I pay for those cans! When she delivered my booty the other day, I put the kettle on to boil, which I haven’t done in a while. Ever since hubby came home wagging one of those Keurig coffee makers (though neither of us even drinks coffee) I’ve just been using it to heat my water. Then I added a teaspoon of the loose tea leaves to my little ingenuiTEA brewer, poured the boiling water over them, and let them steep for two or three minutes. The most amazing fragrance began wafting its way through our kitchen.

When we carried our cups into the living room, I noticed that we both just sat there for a moment, eyes closed, cups held close to our faces, taking slow, deep breaths. When we finally got around to taking our first sip, our eyes popped wide open, and almost in unison we cried “Oh. My. Word! This is the best cup of tea I’ve ever tasted!” How can using loose tea instead of bags make this much difference? Well, I have no idea. All I can tell you is, it does. I guess this is what Slow Food is all about, huh?

Becky Lane has spent most of her life figuring out what it means to be “living the good life.” She and her husband now live on four acres in the Texas Hill Country, in a house called “Seasonality.” She chronicles their transition from big-city-suburbanites to slow-life-practitioners on her blog of the same name.