Tag Archives: parenting

A Basket of Daisies

10120634-field-of-daisy-flowers The story of my mother’s pregnancy with me and my birth is, I believe, a fitting prelude to the rest of my life, and is both a source of happiness and pain.

In August of 1964, my parents had a daughter out of wedlock, a girl born with a cleft palate to a 30 year old divorcee and a 19 year old truck driver. They gave her up for adoption directly after her birth, perhaps sparing her some of the more painful times of my childhood. This sister is someone whom I’ve only a tiny bit of information on, whom is still a mystery to me nearly a half a century after her birth.

It was the summer of 1966, and my mother was married to my father, her second husband, a man 11 years her junior, and she was already the mother to two boys ages 8 and 10. It was at this time,  about the 6 month mark in her pregnancy, that it was discovered she had a cancerous tumor of the uterus. The pregnancy was already a difficult one when my parents found out that my mother was fighting cancer, and that the baby she was carrying was sure to be a stillborn. It seems no wonder she (admittedly) hated me, hated this dead thing inside her.

My mother was due to deliver me on Christmas Day, 1966. However, she was too ill to try to deliver and was scheduled for a full hysterectomy once she was strong enough to survive the delivery and surgery. For the better part of the last months of her pregnancy, my mother believed she was carrying a lifeless child, and was counting down the days until she could expel it. My parents relationship was strained and falling apart. Though she had many doctors appointments, a heartbeat was never heard, and no movement, no butterfly flutters or tiny hiccups were felt.

So it was a complete surprise when, on January 26th, in the elevator of the hospital on the way to surgery, a screaming Dawnfelice was born. A tiny, sickly baby, scarcely as large as my father’s hand, born live and fighting for every breath. My mother was rushed to surgery, where she underwent a full hysterectomy and cancer treatments, spending weeks in the hospital. My dad ended up at some point bringing me home, long before my mother made it back to our domicile. And, since they had not planned on bringing home a child, they had only a few provisions for a baby, making my first “bed” a shoebox.

Due to the tumor (which consequently weighed 9 pounds to my minuscule 4.5 pound frame) crowding me and feeding on the placenta like the stronger being it was, I was born quite ill and fragile. I remember even as a small child hearing the doctors tell my mother that I would be lucky to see my next birthday. Born with severe anemia, a hole in my heart, underweight and malnourished, the prognosis wasn’t good. I probably wouldn’t speak, walk, or live to see my 5th birthday.

So many times during those early years, I could be found in the hospital, suffering through complications of anemia, or yet another case of pneumonia. On one such rainy afternoon in Los Angeles General Hospital in the Spring of 1971, I had been admitted to the Children’s ward for treatment of an acute bout of pneumonia. I was running a fever so high that I was hallucinating. I was truly quite ill, in grave peril. My mother (my parents had been divorced for three years by this time, making her a single, working mother of 3 children)  asked me if I wanted anything, and all I could cough out was the word “daisies”.

My mother went down to the gift shop to bring me a bouquet, but there were no daisies to be had. So, in an act of kindness and desperation, she ventured out into the rain to a floral shop near the hospital. Still, no daisies. At a small drugstore blocks away from the hospital, my mother found a small brown basket filled with white and yellow plastic daisies and an adorably large lady bug on the handle.


Rushing back to the hospital to bring the basket to me before my dreaded appointment for an x-ray (I believed when they explained to me that an x-ray was a test where they could “see your bones”, my fevered brain believed that the large apparatus that loomed above the  table was actually going to crush me so they could “look at my bones”) my mother slipped on the rain-slicked entry to the hospital, falling and breaking her ankle.

Imagine the surprise when, instead of the 4 year old Dawnfelice Ruger coming in for a chest xray, the technicians see my mother Felicia Ruger being wheeled in for an xray of of her ankle. I don’t think it helped that in my fever-crazed fear that I got away from the nurses and ran screaming down the halls of the hospital, being chased by nurses and orderlies until they returned me to the xray room securely strapped down to a gurney.

That little basket of daisies was a prized-possession for many years, reminding me that there was some level on which my mother actually did love me. It also became the cornerstone of one of my first collections as a child, a collection of daisies. To this day, they are my favorite flowers, eternally optimistic in their simple elegance.

For more information on daisies, their meanings and historical significance – check out http://www.whats-your-sign.com/symbolic-meaning-of-daisy.html


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My Life Is Sweet

This summer I have made a concerted effort to organize my life enough to be able to spend Fridays at the beach* with the kids. This may seem easy to some, but for me, it requires a special effort to handle my OCD tendencies and actually get out of the house on a timely basis. Last Friday, we were finally on our way at about 2pm (after cleaning the house top to bottom, getting all the laundry put away, getting my mother squared away, and a picnic dinner packed into the van), with just one scheduled stop on the way. I knew it would be a somewhat abbreviated beach day, as there were thunderstorms on the radar, bearing down on our little berg.

The scheduled stop was to drop off packages to Josh so he could ship them for me. While sitting in the van waiting for him to come out of his office, a friend of mine appeared with her 3 kids in tow, obviously there to visit her husband James (who works with my Josh). We exchanged pleasantries, as she inquired if we were going out to the lake, and then she said “I wish I had your life!”

I smiled as we said our goodbyes and went on about the day. But, I have to admit that her exclamation stuck with me. What did she see that was to be envied? Certainly, in my blackest moments I would not wish my life on my worst enemy (this phrase gave me pause, do I have enemies? Sadly, I admit that I do). I’ve recently been struggling through a bout of depression, and despite my efforts to be a positive force, an agent of change, I heard the [not-so little] voice as it started in with “why on Earth would anyone want YOUR life?”…

So, I spent the rest of the afternoon musing, is my life (with all it’s challenges) enviable? Some part of me wanted to say no, wanted to wallow in the pit, to fall headlong into the abyss. Oh, poor wretched creature.

But the longer I thought about it, turning the idea over in my head, examining all sides, I began to see that the majority of me was quietly content. My life is sweet, my life is full.

I would have left this entire topic alone, except that the words came back to me this morning. I became aware of them running in my head as I lay in bed, next to my best friend, my true soul mate, my love and life. Here I am, safe and sound. My kids are all safe and healthy.

I am most blessed.

The song Life is Sweet, by Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs) comes to me:

It’s a pity, it’s a crying shame
Who pulled you down again?
How painful it must be
To bruise so easily inside
It’s a pity, it’s a downright crime
It happens all the time
You want to stay little daddy’s girl
You want to hide from the vicious world outside
Don’t cry, you know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
Oh, your daddy, he’s the iron man
Battleship wrecked on dry land
Your mamma she’s a bitter bride
She’ll never be satisfied, you know
And that’s not right.
But don’t cry, you know the tears will do no good
So dry your eyes
Oh, they told you life is hard
Misery from the start,
It’s dull, it’s slow, it’s painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more, be grateful
Well, who do you believe
Who will you listen to
Who will it be
‘Cause it’s high time that you decide
In your own mind
I’ve tried to comfort you
I’ve tried to tell you to be patient
They are blind, and they can’t see
Fortune gonna come one day
They’re all gonna fade away
Your daddy the war machine
And your momma the long and suffering
Prisoner of what she cannot see
For they told you life is hard
Misery from the start,
It’s dull, it’s slow, it’s painful
But I tell you life is sweet
In spite of the misery
There’s so much more, be grateful
So, who will you believe
Who will you listen to
Who will it be
‘Cause it’s high time that you decide
It’s time to make up your own
Your own state of mind
Oh they told you life is long
Be thankful when it’s done
Don’t ask for more, be grateful
But I tell you life is short
Be thankful because
Before you know it
It will be over
‘Cause life is sweet, life is also very short
Life is sweet and life is also very short
Life is sweet

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Why A Meteorite, You Ask?

Wikipedia (not ALWAYS the most reliable source – but definitely okay in this instance) defines a meteorite as:

A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth’s surface. A meteorite’s size can range from small to extremely large. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids, but they are also sometimes produced by impacts of asteroids. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, ram pressure (not friction) causes the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball, also known as a meteor or shooting/falling star. The term bolide refers to either an extraterrestrial body that collides with the Earth, or to an exceptionally bright, fireball-like meteor regardless of whether it ultimately impacts the surface.

I once saw a fallen meteorite at the Griffith Park Observatory on a field trip. It was 1982. I was immediately obsessed. [Consequently, I also observed a Tesla coil on the same trip, and while entranced, strangely enough I did not become immediately CERTAIN I would die by Tesla Coil.]

There is something so random, so amazingly deadly and yet, surprisingly statistically impossible about death by meteorite. It was PERFECT. A random, statistically insignificant and yet grimly repugnant way to die.

Historically, there have been few reported incidents of meteorites hitting anyone or anything – well few if you consider the length of time that man has been recording things falling from the sky versus the fact that meteorites actually fall with virtually equal probability everywhere on Earth – relatively few reports – and as far as I can tell, literally no one has actually DIED from a meteorite.

There are several reported instances of falling meteorites having killed both people and livestock, but a few of these appear more credible than others. The most infamous reported fatality from a meteorite impact is that of an Egyptian dog that was killed in 1911, although this report is highly disputed. This particular meteorite fall was identified in the 1980s as Martian in origin. However, there is substantial evidence that the meteorite known as Valera hit and killed a cow upon impact, nearly dividing the animal in two, and similar unsubstantiated reports of a horse being struck and killed by a stone of the New Concord fall also abound. Throughout history, many first and second-hand reports of meteorites falling on and killing both humans and other animals abound, but none have been well documented.

Don’t worry – I haven’t let the FACTS stop me from being obsessed with the idea. In fact, I calculated the exact angle that a meteorite would have to be falling at in order to kill me in bed – and placed our furniture accordingly. I used to switch sides of the bed with JW just to keep the probability numbers in my favor. I believe the odds of being killed are somewhere around 1/700,000. Wow, that just doesn’t seem low enough for me.

I mean, I’ve survived several car crashes, being thrown from a moving car (there WILL be a post about this), nine years of torture, being stabbed, the Cerritos Air Disaster (I was there, on a cul-de-sac at a BBQ), two abusive marriages, eight surgeries, four miscarriages and six live births.

Seriously, what IS going to kill me?

I plan to live a LONG, LONG life, if only to irritate my children (especially Jr. Asparagus). My grandmothers lived to 95 and 104 respectively, so I’ve got that going for me – plus – I live a relatively low-risk life (except my penchant for  risking life and limb to hang from a circus hoop for photo shoots while suffering from a herniated disk in my lower back) and I am in amazingly good health overall.

Death Defying

And we all have to die of something, right? I fully expect to die by meteorite.

P.S. I’ve left instructions for JW (just in case) on how to stage it to look like I’ve been killed by a meteorite in the event that I kick off from something entirely unrelated. 😉

P.P.S – I have also planned for the eventuality of the Zombie Apocalypse. Just in case.

Family Portrait

Yes, this was our 2010 Christmas Card. You're welcome.

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Panic!! at the Dentist?

I have OCD. It stands to reason – I have survived what many therapists have described as nine years of ritual abuse. Sometimes I have anxiety attacks. Most of the time when they happen I can ride them out, waiting for the panic to subside and the irrational fear to ebb off a bit.

But sometimes….

The last time I had a major panic attack was at the kid’s dentist. It kind of stands to reason – what is more fear inducing than taking several small children to the dentist? I had Bean (5) and Jackers (6) with me, and we had already finished their cleanings etc.

My kids go to a large pediatric dental practice in downtown St. Paul. The staff is very professional, and frankly, I know that I could not survive a day in that place – with all the screaming children (even if it is for their own good).  My kids aren’t screamers (thank God for small favors) but they unfortunately both had a cavity.

I am certain that the dentists and hygienists don’t mean to make a parent feel bad – but somehow – that’s exactly what happens. The anxiety started building during the second child’s exam (Jackers) – because he was going to need to have a tooth pulled. He was born with an extra canine tooth (we called it his “shark tooth”) that was small and a bit weaker than the other teeth.

Now – when you have five small children – you spend a lot of time, an inordinate amount of time, helping them brush & floss etc. We do our best, but sometimes your best isn’t good enough.

This was the trigger. IMPERFECTION! “You aren’t good enough. You have failed, and it’s going to cost you!”The accusation, of “you aren’t really doing your best, are you?” had begun to buzz in my head, and my stomach began to knot.

I barely got out of the office before my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. We got into the elevator and down into the car before the full force of the panic hit – and I was able to hand my Kindle Fire! back to Jackers & Bean to keep them busy.

I told them not to be scared – as I completely broke down crying, unable to breathe, unable to talk – panic and anxiety washing over me with fear and guilt. Realizing that it was getting worse, I was able to dial JW’s cell. I don’t think I could even talk at that point, simply crying into the phone “help!”. It scared me to think the kids were scared – but Jackers was very calm and brave – and kept Bean busy playing some game while watching me in the rear view mirror. “It will be ok, mommy”, he said, completely as if he believed it.

Sometimes I think JW has a transporter beam – or is secretly a NASCAR driver – because I think he was there in under five minutes. His presence causing a strange mix of calm and additional tears. Somehow, JW is safe, he is that elusive “Home” that my heart and soul have craved – and it calmed me enough to be able to drive home with him following.

He stayed until the full force of the attack had gone, and checked to make sure the kids were fine (which they were). In fact, they seem completely unaware of how awful those minutes were.

I am trying not to avoid the kid’s dentist. I am nervous to go back, afraid a bit that it will recur. But I know it’s not the “place” – the physical in any account – but the “place” in my heart where imperfection and failure equal physical pain and shame that is the problem.  How or when will that heal?

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Fair Warning…

This blog is mostly for me. I am going to post links on my FB page to these sharings  I feel the time is right for me to write, and while I’d like to have the time (or the ability) to write my memoirs, the best I can do at the moment is a [semi-] daily blog post. I truly hope that in releasing some of this into the blogosphere will help someone, as much as it is helping me. If you find a post that resonates – please share it with your friends.

I am not planning on this taking off and finding myself on Ellen anytime soon (or at all thank you very much), but I do hope that someone, somewhere will find hope in knowing that someone like me can come through this life and end up [semi-] normal.

But here’s the warning – I plan to write about my life. Some of it has been charmed, but a there are parts that are really (what word do I use?) BRUTAL. Since all the people involved are not yet dead, and some may actually find this blog – so for them, the truth is the truth. I truly can only think of one person who I would be worried about reading this for fear it may hurt them. If that is you – please read no further posts.

I am not invincible, but I am tough. Which is why this is what will eventually kill me.


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Well Howdy Hi There!

When I was a tot, before my mother married her fifth husband, Dennis (now referred to as The Beast), she was a self-proclaimed “wild woman”. She enjoyed herself, she enjoyed men (thoroughly), especially men in the United States Marine Corp (semper fi).

She and her friend Jane were well known in Long Beach California, for their partying and raucous ways – but perhaps mostly for the ever-present matching sweatshirts that said “Well Howdy Hi There” on the front and “Black Russian Time” on the back. In truth, they didn’t want to waste time with formalities, they wanted to get straight to the “fun”.

This was the late 60s, early 70s – and I guess my mother could be construed as a revolutionary fighter in the sexual revolution. Truth be told, she worked hard, and was raising two kids as a single mother – I suppose she deserved some fun.

I was so young, that this “time” in my life could be better described – or more accurately described by my older brother, David. Being 8 years older than I, he endured so much more of my mother’s wrath and abuse at the time. I cannot know or even fathom the abuse that was visited on him. He was, and remains, my hero. I know there were many times he stood between her and I, and took the brunt of the beatings.

She was an enigma, outwardly seeming the “perfect mother”, with “well-behaved” children, a hard worker (she was) and “put together”. But privately, she was controlling, spiteful, abusive both physically and emotionally, and, I would posit, in a great deal of emotional pain. But this is no excuse for her actions, simply an acknowledgement of the truth.

I have spent the better part of my adult life trying to repair the damage done by my childhood – with the last six years focused on my relationship with my mother. In 2005, I brought my ill and elderly mother to live with me. I sometimes still question the sanity of that decision. I have to compartmentalize my life, to a point, to do it successfully. Basically, I began our relationship then, in 2005, having buried the past during therapy, after years of cutting her off from my life.

She is too frail to do an physical harm, and I must remain strong to disallow her the ability to do any further emotional harm – on the contrary – I seek healing. She is still incapable of recognizing or acknowledging the past, she lives in a bubble, an alternate reality she has woven around herself. But I know the truth. Others know the truth, and in actively loving her, and actively loving my family in a healthy and non-abusive way, I am healing.

I refuse to pay the abuse forward, to use “I was a victim of abuse” as an excuse to visit the sins of the father on my children. I AM A SURVIVOR! and there is more power in the difference than you can possibly know.

There are hard days. There are good days. I am growing and learning. I am healing.

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It seems these days, everyone has a blog. I feel like such a “joiner” – but for years people have been telling me that I should write, I should share my experiences with the world at large.  So here I am, writing my very first blog post.

INTRODUCING….The Amazing Dawnfelice

I sometimes feel like a circus side show. I was, after all, raised by wolves. OK, not really wolves – that might have worked out a little better for me. Actually, I was raised by my physically and emotionally abusive mother, my divorced and absent father, and my mother’s fifth husband and sexually and physically abusive stepfather. Wolves and vampires would have been better.

I plan to let you peek inside my psyche through this blog, but not in some boring chronological way.

And this isn’t a spoiler in any way – it turns out okay – well at least so far – because I am happily married to a wonderful husband and father to my six beautiful children, five boys and one girl. These children will know no abuse, save the stories I tell them to help them know their mother and to explain the world.

Thank you for reading. Stick around, this is going to get good.


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March 17, 2012 · 4:42 pm