Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm Feeling Good

Feeling good

My sister, Tricia and Michael were married May 19. It was a celebration of so many things. As Monsignor Whelton pronounced them ‘husband and wife’, I turned to Michael’s two daughters and gave them a hug and said, “It’s official! You are my nieces and I am your Aunt”…in a single moment, my parents became grandparents of two lovely little girls and my kids had two more cousins. It took a ceremony of two families coming together to gain a brother. My sister became a stepmother; but more than that I witnessed a commitment she made to Michael’s two daughters that I will remember as long as I live.

The nuptial Mass was beautiful because it was intimately a family affair. The smallness of the wedding made it more personal for all assembled. I completely lost it when Pop walked Tricia down the aisle with two leg braces and a crutch. Symbolically, it was a miracle. Who would have thought two years ago that Dad would come so far, yet he was his old self; taking his ‘baby’ down the aisle. For our family, it was a victory lap. We all had run the race.

The words to their first song & dance “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…and I’m feeling’ good” was so appropriate for the occasion. It was a day of grace. How many family weddings evoke feelings such as this; that no matter how sad life can be or how many blows and disappointments come along, that some things are just sacredly joyful in their essence and meaning. I saw cousins I hadn’t seen in a decade. Michael’s parents hosted a fabulously fun rehearsal dinner the night before and it was as if we were all one family. That’s how weddings should be.

As they ventured out to their honeymoon, my sister Terry and I left a picnic basket in their honeymoon cottage, along with their favorite champagne and treats. The photographs I loved from the day are of the new “family” and the parents in a group hug huddled together at the end of the evening.

Tricia has been bi-coastal for the last two years trying to finish her doctoral program, while planning this wedding and securing two teaching positions that wait for her return from her honeymoon. I’ve never witnessed my sister in overdrive; and was even more impressed with her patience and understanding when advising me on my own Master’s application for nursing. She has been more than my sister; she has been a true friend. As the youngest sibling, it was she who took me by the hand, probably for the very first time.

As I watched the happily wedded couple dance their first dance to crooner, Michael Buble’s rendition of ‘I’m feeling good’, I watched the circle of friends and family around them. Their joy was infectious. Everything about the day signified that these are the days worth remembering and cherishing. It was an honor and a privilege to witness it.

Tammy Maher is a biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Heels & Wheels Club

I made it though Anatomy & Physiology class at Folsom Lake College this spring due to the wonderful friendships forged with my study group and the support of a teacher who rewarded our efforts with understanding, compassion and a decent amount of extra credit.

Community college is for everyone who has the desire to learn, no matter what else might be happening in your life. Case in point: Two women in my class had babies in the middle of midterms. While learning about the structural and anatomical miracles that make up the human body, a baby boy and a baby girl were born to Biology 430 students Trudy and Adena in the middle of the Bone and Nervous System chapters. What could be more miraculous than that? A third baby, a girl, is due to be born in July to a wonderful mom who was part of our study group. They don’t know this yet but I’ve aptly named our little group the Heels & Wheels club. Heels for the shoes some of them wore, and wheels for the backpacks we lugged around campus like a group of stewardesses stuck between La Guardia and LAX.

Tracy is a brilliant woman who will be a wonderful nurse to the patients she will care for one day. She took this incredibly intense class while carrying her second child. Once her baby is born in July, we are going to carry her through the rest of the prerequisites because we know how capable she is of accomplishing her goals. Karoline is the consummate 'fashionista' of our group. She wore Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel and animal prints on days when I showed up in the same old tee shirts, jeans & crocks. She basically revealed to the world what a fashion dolt I really am. She is more lovely on the inside than outside (if that were even possible) and I know whatever career path she chooses, she will forever be the exhorting & calming “Lily” of her profession. Jennifer is a kindred spirit. I marvel at her ability to maintain a 100% average, raise her daughters, maintain a marathoner’s physique’ while completely absorbing the technical aspects of muscle physiology and neural pathways. I would try to approach her action potential, but my synapses don’t snap that far, nor could I hope to reach the mile high pedestal she sits on, ah.. but I digress in a sea of envy.

Perhaps the sweetest ladies in our Heels and Wheels club were the younger ones. Jhanvi lived and worked at the library and never have I known a more conscientious student and study partner. Her sweetness and brains were like a Venti Quad Extra Hot White Mocha with whip cream on a rainy day. She was always snapping me into action with a cell phone call and a shout out to get myself to the library to study with her. Andrea bailed me out of a homework crisis before a big test, by running home before class (a sacrifice I shall not forget); my only regret is that I missed her insightful presentation on the subject of Rabies. We were in chemistry together last summer and she often had to put up with my lame jokes and terrible complaining. She, Karoline and I shared a common bond with our lab cat (named, “Smelly Cat”) and they endured my terrible singing and equally distasteful methods of memorizing muscle groups. While I was the “Lab Mom”, they were ‘my girls’. I claimed them all because I grew so fond of the hours we spent studying the integral systems of the human anatomy and their interrelationships to one another. I shall never forget the neumonic of the muscles of the lower leg nor the one we were handed by our teacher for the cranial nerves. Laboratory practical examinations were that much more bearable because of our tremendous insights into memorization. Blue humor goes along way to help alleviate anxieties about the cranial nerves and whatever foramen they might be running through.

The Heels & Wheels club consists of a cross section of women I would gladly work side by side with in the nursing profession or anywhere else for that matter. I hope I can convince them to hang out with me next fall. It’s going to be a long summer without them.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sweet 16

Shannon Elizabeth was born three minutes after midnight Tuesday April 9, 1991. I remember it well because I was there in the biblical sense. With labor going into the third day I was kind of hoping for the resurrection because I was starting to get a little tired of the pitocin pushing through the IV induced contractions. My doctor was normally a very happy-go-lucky, “the glass is half full” kind of guy, but at this juncture we were both getting a little worried. This was probably due to the fact that my doctor’s wife was also in labor on the same floor at the same time, so let’s just say his attentions were completely divided. It would have made for a great Lewis & Martin movie. He was convinced I was delivering a 10 pound baby. I felt like I was having a buffalo. Either way, Shannon did not want to born until she was ready. Not much has changed in 16 years.

The last word’s I remember the OB saying to me were “I’m not kidding around Tam…look at me…we need to get this baby out NOW!” Where were the jovial comforting reassurances? “OK”, I muttered…and with every ounce of strength left in me, she entered into the world with one final push. Feeling like Lance Armstrong or Forrest Gump somewhere near the Grand Canyon on the last pass, I looked into the eyes of this child and just wept. “You are so beautiful”! “I’m your mom and this is your Dad”. Honestly after three days of labor, I thought I was delivering a dinosaur. It was such a relief to behold such a small and delicate precious baby girl. She weighed less than 7 pounds and was the most amazing sight I had ever beheld. She was the complete likeness of her blue eyed father. I had nothing to do with it at all. I was only the vehicle by which she arrived and she came with her own blueprint for living. I’ve been watching the Architect work on her for 16 years and He isn’t through with her yet.

So much has happened since that day at Mercy General Hospital 16 years ago. Gram has been gone for two years now and I’ll never forget the hours she held Shannon as a newborn in her arms those first days after she was born. She would be proud of her namesake if she could see her now. I made sure I had a first year portrait of the two of them together and I’m so glad I had that done, especially now that Gram is gone. It hangs in a prominent place as a reminder of the legacy from which she came.

I would walk through fire for this child (as I would for her brother and younger sister), but the oldest “breaks you in” as a parent. Her first high fever freaked me out, the first fall off the bed darn near sent me into a tailspin, the first time she rode a bike, read a word, got lost at Disneyland, received a spanking, and just held my hand; they were all the firsts for me and she taught me more than I taught her. I learned a lot about patience, praying and loving from my firstborn. I learned how to diaper, breastfeed and take a temperature from this child. She was the one who hid from me in the middle of the clothing racks at the department store and thought it was funny when the security guards were searching for her with Code Adam’s blaring on the loudspeakers. Her tears would stop me in my tracks and her smiles melt my heart like butter. She brings me more comfort than I could possibly give her. I am humbled by her ability to make others happy, and encouraged by the friendships she has fostered. I am blessed to call her my daughter.

She is now learning to drive with her Dad. I’ve watched her become a young woman and she still takes my breath away. I see goodness in her that is not from me but from a higher place. I can’t wait to see the rest of her life unfold. Happy Sweet 16th Birthday Shannon! Your father and I love you more than words can express.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and biweekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at or on the web at