Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business:

“My third summer at the Playhouse required the usual mundane chores before the season began.  One morning, while painting a garage door on a ladder in my ragged old yellow terry cloth robe, a car appeared in the driveway.  Out of it stepped a knockout blonde ingénue, Barbara Meyer.  Her parents had driven her up from New Jersey to be certain it was a safe environment for their daughter.  Having already seen her black and white publicity photo hung on a wagon wheel in the lobby, I eagerly awaited her arrival.  She glanced briefly at me and assumed I was a maintenance worker.”

Together they starred in many plays that summer and the next, and married on May 7, 1949.  But Ozzie, my mother’s father, and his friends had some reservations: 

“In the men’s room at the reception, one of Ozzie’s friends actually came up alongside me at the urinal and asked, ‘How do you intend to support Barbara?’  It really floored me.  Together, Bobbie and I had saved a few hundred dollars.  I don’t remember what I muttered in response, but I thought the question on this night, on this occasion, at this place, was insensitive.  The truth is all of her family’s friends were concerned that Bobbie was marrying an actor.  The poor girl.  God, what a terrible thing to have happened.”

After cutting their honeymoon short for my mother’s appearance on a television show, John and Bobbie continued to audition and cross their fingers.  It wasn’t long before their dreams came true: 

“Harvey Marlowe, the man who saw our audition in New York, called to say WOR, Channel 9, had signed us to do a domestic comedy in the fall.  They wanted a fifteen minute show, five nights a week.  ‘Who will write them?’ I asked.

‘You will.’

Fifteen minutes?  Five nights a week?  All we had was the ten minute audition sketch.  Impossible.  And I’m not really a writer.  I called Harvey Marlowe immediately.

‘We’re thrilled with the offer.’”

After a few years on television with many scripts under his belt, Dad started getting writing jobs, which replaced acting as a means of support.  Eventually, a lucrative Hollywood offer brought my parents out to California.  Dad wrote the film, “Run Silent, Run Deep,” and his career turned into solid gold.  Mom left acting to have me, then my brother, Larry, and then my sister, Liz.  But as soon as we were all off to college, she went back to the stage, performing at the Nine O’Clock Players children’s theater in Hollywood. 

Through it all, Mom and Dad held on to each other as soulmates.  They believed their stars were meant to collide.  On their anniversary, I step out into the clear, dark night and feel their love for each other illuminate the sky.

 

Blogs

Related

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business: “My third summer at the...

read more
Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

...After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and...

read more
Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This...

read more

Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

…After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary.  As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines.  You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store…”

“Lee, I’m going to the market.  Want anything?”

            “No.  But I’ll drive you.  Need a change of scenery.”

            We drove down to the market and found a parking place.

            I said, “Coming in?”

            “Nah.  Didn’t plan on going.”

            After 21 years of living with a child who had ADHD and sensory processing disorder (SPD), this made perfect sense.  Before Lee’s diagnosis at the age of six, we went to the market according to my schedule, which was usually rushed.  Little did I know that I was setting into place a sequence of events that would turn into a fiasco.

It started when we got into the market, and I plopped her in the basket.  Marketing was like navigating a crowded freeway, as I tried to steer down the middle of the aisle.  The minute my cart veered to the right or left, her little fingers set to work grabbing the coupons from the machines sticking out from the shelf.  Before we got very far, the coupons were dropped in favor of a bright, shiny package of cookies, fun to put in her mouth.  By the time the cookies were back on the shelf, my toddler was leaning over the basket, trying to pick the topmost can off a display case.

            When Lee was old enough to walk beside the basket, she ran.  I followed at top speed, dodging those display cases, hoping she wouldn’t crash into one.  But too often, a tower of cans flew onto the floor with a huge bang, leaving my face burning with embarrassment.  When we got into the checkout lane, I reminded Lee to stand back and give the customer in front of us room to check out.  My words floated in one ear and out the other, as she sidled up close to the stranger like she was her mother.  Pulling Lee back to my side, I unloaded my groceries, only to have it happen again.

After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and time to process the change was necessary.  As Lee put it at a later age, “Cars are like time machines.  You watch the world go by, but your brain’s still at home even if you’re at the store.”

The occupational therapist explained that if my child didn’t have a chance to transition, then the market could trigger reactions.  First, Lee’s hypo-tactile sense was on high alert, her need to touch everything in sight, or put it in her mouth, too urgent to resist.  Then, the vestibular jumped right in, the body’s sense of gravity, so out of whack from the new environment that it was likely to crash into nearby objects.  The proprioceptive sense, her body’s awareness of where she was in space, joined in at the checkout line, and a considerate distance vanished into thin air.   

Advance notice that we were going to the market proved necessary, as were exercises before we went, like spinning, for grounding the vestibular sense.  She wore a weighted backpack to help the proprioceptive sense, and always held a fidget toy in her busy hands.  If I could, I made the trips to the market with her as short as possible.

Bringing my thoughts back to the present, I looked over at Lee in the car, who was putting in earbuds, eyes fluttering closed. 

I said, “Be back soon.”

“I’m safe here, Mom.  Take your time.”   

 

Blogs

Related

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business: “My third summer at the...

read more
Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

...After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and...

read more
Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This...

read more

Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This was the movie that launched my father into a successful Hollywood career, a timeless story of men in battle, which would be shown on television more than any other film he wrote. 

During the shooting, Dad had a memorable visit to the sub, in San Diego, where the action took place.  After serving in the Coast Guard, he knew about the dangers submarine sailors faced.  What he wasn’t prepared for was the captain’s sense of humor.  In the following scene from Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business, his memoir we wrote together, Dad tells the story of when Hollywood was “taken for a ride.”

 

“Safely submerged, we set out to sea in maneuvers that had to match mock encounters with other Navy craft in which dummy torpedoes would be used.  By lunchtime, Wise and I were still bushed from lack of sleep and asked the captain if we could just sack out for twenty minutes.  He was glad to oblige and let us use his own quarters with double tiered bunks. 

I had only just closed my eyes when the sub gave an alarming shudder, a groan, another shudder, and started to sway back and forth.  ‘Uh-oooga!  Uh-oooga!’ came on the loudspeaker.  And then utter silence.  No engine sound.

Wise and I sprang to our feet.  Two crew members entered the captain’s quarters and the air-tight hatches were sealed behind them immediately.  Silence.  They stood on guard, still silent, hands behind their backs, at attention. 

‘What’s going on?’

No answer.  No response.  The silence was both deafening and alarming.  They stood there like statues.  And they remained that way for what seemed like an hour.  Then a voice came over on a loud speaker.  ‘Secure from collision drill!  Secure from collision drill!’

A grinning captain greeted us when the hatches were opened.  It was obvious that he enjoyed his little stunt enormously, taking Hollywood for a ride.  The first shudder was all ahead full to all reverse.  Second shudder was firing off a dummy torpedo.  How did it feel?  We offered weak smiles.  ‘Oh, yes.  Terrific stunt.  Great.’”

Blogs

Related

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business: “My third summer at the...

read more
Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

...After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and...

read more
Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This...

read more
A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

A Serious Decision – Teen ADHD Driving

…When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18.  As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online.  Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned. 

 

“Pull a U, Lee.”

“I don’t know how to!”

“Just make a sharp left turn!”

The next thing I knew, our front tires were on the sidewalk, the back of the car blocking the right lane of oncoming traffic.  Fear broke out in silent ripples across Lee’s body.  My heart was racing.  I’d just given the keys to a two-ton SUV to my daughter, who struggled with ADHD and anxiety.  Was I insane?

We lived in California and driving was a skill that cannot be underestimated.  But recent statistics prove I was right to be concerned.  A Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study, published in May of 2019, stated that teens with ADHD have a 62% higher crash risk the first month after getting licensed.  To top that off, 37% of people with ADHD, regardless of their age when licensed, have a higher crash risk in the first four years after getting licensed.  Distractibility, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity…all good reasons why allowing your teen with ADHD to drive is a very serious decision.    

When we told Lee she would have to wait until she was 18 to drive, she was angry.  But when her anxiety grew worse in tenth grade, she became fearful.  My husband and I went from reassuring her it could wait to encouraging her to give it a try when she turned 18.  As the time grew closer, I researched driving schools in our area and found one that had classes onsite for the written exam, versus doing it online.  Like many ADHD students, Lee needed guidance and help staying on task, plus reminders of what she’d learned. 

The driving school teacher not only made it fun, but he repeated himself over and over.  He drilled the important facts until Lee had them memorized, passing the written exam.  Then, the driving training began and getting Lee out of the house and into the car was the challenge.  We went through four instructors who were all, for the most part, kind and aware of Lee’s anxiety.  Still, whether Lee would get into the car with them was hit or miss.  Finally, Holly arrived, a mom who had fostered many children with special needs and knew how to toe the line between compassion and strength.

Lee and I made it off that sidewalk, but that experience and others convinced her to go at her own pace.  It took two permits over the course of a year and four months for Lee to get her license.  But when she did, she had more experience than the average teen, to say the least.  When it came time for Lee to choose a car, the decision was easy.  The new smart cars with their flashing warning systems, despite their sticker tag, were great back-up.

 When we saw her take off down our street for the first time, we felt she could handle it.  The longer period of time before she drove allowed time for her brain to develop.  Extra experience behind the wheel allowed Lee to gain confidence and cope as a driver when she felt anxiety.  If you have a child with ADHD who is about to drive, below is the link for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia study.  It’s worth the read!

https://www.chop.edu/news/teens-adhd-get-more-traffic-violations-risky-driving-have-higher-crash-risk-regardless-age-when

Blogs

Related

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business: “My third summer at the...

read more
Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

...After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and...

read more
Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This...

read more
Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

Writing About My Child

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile

“Does your daughter know you’re writing about her?”  The man spit out his words, his steel-grey eyes drilling into me.  My fellow writers shifted in their chairs.  I felt like a bug pinned under a microscope.  No one had ever asked me this question in all the previous conferences I’d attended.  I shook my head no.  My cheeks burned under his gaze. 

The workshop leader said, “If you have personal questions for Jennifer, please ask her after our class.” 

I’d just read an essay of a morning when my child’s ADHD had spun out of control.  Desperate to cope, I’d written the story, looking for perspective.  Now, I felt my struggles had been human, might give other parents hope, and this workshop was my way to see if other writers agreed with me.  But, I hadn’t thought to show it to Lee, who was only nine years old.    

When the bell rang for lunch, the man leapt out of his seat and came over to me.  “You should wait until your daughter is old enough to give you consent.  She may never forgive you for writing about her disabilities.  Think about it.”  He strode out of the door.

As I watched him leave, I wondered if he was right.  My heart hammered, and a wave of shame rippled through me.  I pushed out of my chair.  If I kept my child’s ADHD a secret, under lock and key, then what message was I giving to her as her mother?  Lee needed courage, not fear, to face her challenges. 

I’m not here to sweep Lee’s disability under the rug, I’m writing to advocate. 

I returned home and told Lee I was writing about raising a child with ADHD, the ups and downs of our days together.  Since it wasn’t going anywhere yet, I didn’t see why I had to ask her approval.  Over time, my essays piled up, and I started to look for a place to publish them. 

When Lee was thirteen, I went to a conference for people with ADHD and met the representative for ADDitude magazine, a leading resource for the ADHD community.  Without a doubt, I knew this was the place I wanted to submit an essay.  The ADDitude representative bounced me to the editor, who offered me a running blog on their website.  I felt a little nudge inside my heart.  I saw those steel-grey eyes.  Now, it was time to get my child’s consent.

“Will it help other kids?” Lee said a hopeful smile.

“More like the moms and dads.  But I won’t do it without your permission.  And, I’ll give you a pseudonym.”

In my attempt to find ways to parent my child and understand her ADHD, I’ve written over fifty blogs.  I’ve gone public on social media and been interviewed on Instagram.  Lee is now 21, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for her support.  Any shame I ever felt has long been forgiven.

 

 

Blogs

Related

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars

Today marks what would have been my mother and father’s 72nd anniversary.  Talk about a love story!  They met acting in summer stock at the Boothbay Playhouse in Maine.  As Dad put it in his memoir, Any Way I Can; 50 Years in Show Business: “My third summer at the...

read more
Market Fiasco

Market Fiasco

...After Lee was diagnosed with ADHD, I found out that SPD often accompanied it.  We went to an occupational therapist who taught us that a trip to the market wasn’t to be taken lightly.  It was a transition for Lee’s brain and body, from one place to the other, and...

read more
Run Silent, Run Deep

Run Silent, Run Deep

The other night, I thought it would be fun to take Run Silent, Run Deep, the movie my father adapted back in 1958, and watch it on our vintage Philco T.V.  I loved the way the tiny screen amplified the tight space in the submarine, making it all the more real.  This...

read more