The gift of ‘Yes, you can’

Dear Sadie and Amelia,

I apologize that this gift has taken so long to reach you, but it took a while to convince the country that it was time.

This morning, America got a beautiful gift when Senator Kamala Harris was named Vice President-Elect of the United States.

I cried. Finally, some of the work of thousands of women over the last century has begun to pay off. 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote. That’s one really long wait.

White men have had the right to vote for 224 years; Black men gained the right 92 years later in 1868, but women – who were equally important in the development and growth of our country – didn’t get to vote until 1920. Susan B. Anthony was arrested when she attempted to vote in the 1872 presidential election. It took another 48 year for the 19th Amendment to pass, guaranteeing women equal status in the voting booth.

Sadie, your mom says that I am the Grammy who is in charge of Female Empowerment and I’m good with that. It comes from something my mother impressed upon me, that women can do anything they want and should challenge the system when they’re discouraged. I believed her and went on to break a couple of small glass ceilings when I worked with the Fremont Police Department as the first female Explorer and LAPD, alongside male trainees and officers as the first female Cadet, proving that women were just as capable as men.

I gladly accept the responsibility of providing you both with information, books, conversations and meet-and-greets with powerful women to help you realize your opportunities. I did it for Sadie’s mama and aunt and, despite the distance, will do the same to make sure Amelia knows that Rock women are Forces of Nature to be reckoned with.

Vice President-Elect Harris bears a tremendous weight upon her shoulders as the First. She will be watched closely, but I am confident that she will prevail. But I need to warn you that there are still people out there who will criticize any mistake she makes, any misunderstanding or misstep she takes – solely because she is a woman. The most cruel critics might even be other women. But don’t listen to their rhetoric. See that Kamala is standing on the shoulders of the thousands of women who went before her and stand strong.

We may have the vote, but we’re still working on the equality.

Fortunately, you are growing up in a society with more equitable opportunities across the board. Despite the challenges, don’t ever tie down your dreams, – let them soar beyond your wildest expectations. And if those dreams include public service, get in there and gain experience. Volunteer to help run nonprofit groups, serve on citizen boards and commissions, and run for office because there is just as much room on the dais for you as there is for men. My wish is that during your lifetimes, you enjoy the freedom to be voted in or appointed to offices simply because you are the best candidate.

Kamala is taking a historic first step for America, but it’s a step she’s worked on and waited patiently for. Patience and hope go hand in hand. Just ask my friend Eileen. She’s 102 and when she was born, women couldn’t vote. Her mother was an activist involved in the women’s movement and marches in Iowa. By the time Eileen turned 21 (the former voting age, getting the vote to 18-year olds is a whole different blog post), she proudly voted and has voted in every election since. She is one of the most confident people I know and absolutely thrilled to see a woman headed for the White House in her lifetime. May you have her determination and pluck.

And when you’re looking at property on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC in the future, know that those keys are within your reach, thanks to a woman who was born in the same city as your Grammy.

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.47.51 PMA few years ago, I made a resolution to reconnect. Reconnect with people who molded and influenced me, made me laugh, saved me from jail, lent an ear to my drama queen moments, or were bumpers in my pinball journey through life.

I promised myself I would be selective – that I would reach out to the people that I really missed and wondering where their adventures had taken them. So not everybody.

No offense, Susan Watts, but you stole my Popsicle money in elementary school and I’m still pissed. We will not be visiting.

Everyone has a handful of people whose orbits have veered away from ours, whose fates intrigue us, making them hover on our map of stars, just a short distance away. We might exchange Christmas cards, or even text messages, which always end with “let’s get together soon!”

Show of hands: how many people have actually follow through?

It’s hard. We’ve all got schedules, work, kids, families, and obligations that pull us in different directions. Sometimes it seems impossible to make time for another lunch or an impromptu road trip.

Nothing is impossible.

I’m here to tell you to make the time. Make. The. Time.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 4.50.01 PMI will soon celebrate what I’m referring to as my Beatles birthday – 64 – and what I’m about to say usually applies to those of us with a shorter balance on our dance card.

Make the time. When someone says, “let’s do lunch” or “gee, it would be great to see you,” be the person who answers “OK, when? Let’s make a date. Now.”

Because nobody knows who is going to be around if you put it off and regret is sometimes more painful than loss.

When I first made that resolution, I had two main targets for immediate reconnects – my best friends from school; Vicki, who became my ride-or-die in second grade and Margaret, who I was partnered with when she joined our sixth grade class as a recent emigrant from Canada. We were assigned to be buddies; my job was to show her around and help her get comfortable in her new home. Little did those teachers know that our relationship would get stronger and we would be joined at the hip as we moved through junior high and high school.

We were even christened “Kochaltoosh” – a mashup of our last names, long preceding Brangelina, by one of our civics teachers because when there was one in the room, the other was not far away.

Both Vicki and Margaret lived in Central California, and I love road trips. It had been at least 28 years since our family of five visited Vicki and her husband, Preston, and the last time I saw Margaret, it was at a baby shower my family threw for me in the Bay Area. Her appearance was a surprise and I was even more surprised that she was pregnant too. Our daughters were born one day apart – 37 years ago.

of course, there were more serious pictures, but why not show us in our natural setting?

In the spring of 2016, I drove up to Tracy to visit Vicki. Her brilliant smile hadn’t dimmed and her firecracker spirit was undaunted, despite some health challenges. From the first hug at the curb, I was awash with gratitude that we were able to pick up from where we’d left off. The next two days were spent talking, learning about each other’s subsequent lives, laughing and catching up. I did feel the mantle of responsibility she shouldered, as her husband had recently gone to an assisted living facility because of his dementia, but she soldiered on because … well, life. Gotta keep going.

It was timely that we discovered that our yin and yang, discovered so many years before, was stronger than ever.

The next day, we both headed for Manteca to visit with Margaret and her husband, Roland. They lived in a beautiful little house that was the perfect setting for their happy existence and occasional party-throwing (something Margie excelled at, I learned). Seeing her, I physically felt my past come back, remembering the years we spent growing and learning about life together. She looked the same, albeit a tiny bit grayer, but still excited that we were together. We looked at yearbooks, wedding pictures, talked about friends past; she whipped up a delicious lunch and the three of us spent the afternoon doing a lot more laughing. When we finally had to part, the connections had been strengthened; the determination to stay a little closer cemented and all of our hearts happy. I drove the next leg of my trip, up to Sacramento to pick up my daughter (the one that’s one day younger than Margaret’s) and we headed back to Southern California to surprise her sister.

The original Kochaltoosh. Or since the Toosh is on the left…..oh never mind.

A few months later, I got a text from Margaret, telling me she was being treated for myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer. She was optimistic and said that so far, the chemo was not too bad. She was scheduled to receive a bone marrow transplant in June, and when I checked in on her, she said the transplant went well, sending a picture of her and Roland enjoying missles (frozen treats), proudly displaying her “chrome dome.” Doctors were pleased with her progress and I started thinking about bringing up a stack of LPs she would enjoy.

In the meantime, Vicki’s husband was moved to another facility. She came down to visit and we went to LACMA and a few wineries near my daughter’s house, so she could see the countryside and meet my granddaughter. I cooked dinner every night and we were happy and content to just enjoy each other’s company. When she returned home, we started texting more. I sent texts to Margaret, but didn’t hear back, but I figured she must just be busy.

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Then, as we celebrated my granddaughter’s birthday, I got a panicked phone call from Vicki. Preston had died. I dropped everything and drove up to her new home (she now lives with her daughter on a farm) for the funeral. I put the LPs in the car, intending to make a quick trip up to see Margaret and drop them off before I headed home. I texted her that I was in Northern California, but still no answer. I left the stack with Vicki.

A month later, I saw a posting on Facebook that she had died – on the day I had arrived in Tracy for Preston’s funeral.

Vicki and Margaret weren’t the only friends from my past that I had reconnected with. About 10 years ago, I found Olivia, a friend who showed me the ropes of Southern California when I was a newbie and working for LAPD, on Facebook and we started corresponding. She visited a couple of times when she came home to Santa Paula to check on family and we spent a lot of time on Memory Lane, remembering parties, dates and escapades that went back more than 40 years. She had moved across the country and we had both changed careers, but we could still talk for hours about everything.

We loved our friendship and Mexican food almost equally

Last week, she went in for surgery to take care of a small growth in her abdomen. She goofy-posted while she was coming out of anesthesia (if you’d ever met Olivia, you wouldn’t try to take her phone away for any reason), then made us all feel better when she was coherent and grammatical the next day. Everything had gone well … until 24 hours later, when she threw a blood clot and suddenly died.

I love social media, except for when I get news flashes like these. The posts seem unreal and we hurriedly scroll through and jump from page to page looking for verification and feeling our hearts sink when we find it. While we hate the messenger temporarily, we seem to draw comfort from the worldwide community of our friends in common – one of them even likened it to “an online funeral” because people from all over could share their memories and sorrow and start our collective healing.

I didn’t write this post to start a flood of “sorry for your loss” messages, although I deeply appreciate those I received when Preston and Margaret and Olivia shuffled off this mortal coil. Vicki is fine and I am considering protecting her with bubble wrap so we can celebrate our 100th birthdays together (she will be free from harm and have something to do at the same time. Good thing both of us are easily entertained).

While my heart hurts for their passing, I am eternally grateful for having taken the time, making the drive, sending and answering texts and being present.

We blow off too many people because of time, politics, and inflexibility. If someone means or meant something to you, take a moment. Gas up the car. Make the reservations. Hit the road.

Trust me, the feeling is better than you can ever imagine.

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Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Orange or Blue? It’s a family thing

See? I have a cool Dodgers hat. And I’m at Dodger Stadium. Life IS Good!

Go Dodgers! World Champs 2017! Whoo-hoo!

There. I got that off my chest.

I take a lot of grief from my friends and family for being a diehard San Francisco Giants fan. I proudly wear the orange and black, know the name of the mascot (Lou Seal) and the history of home plate moving from one park to another, but I can’t spew names or stats. That doesn’t stop the swell of pride when my Boys from the Bay are doing well.




Three World Series Championships in five years that start with a 20. Just sayin’. The stats I do know? The Giants have won more National League pennants than any other team (23), followed by the Dodgers with 21. And they’ve been World Series Champions 8 times, while the Dodgers have been on top 6 times. Let’s hope that number goes up to 7.

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Despite many “friends” painting me as the evil enemy, I am thrilled that tonight, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the first game of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros. I think it would be an awesome Halloween trick if the Series becomes their treat next week and we get to have a victory parade in early November.


And I will buy a shirt. Because blue looks good on me too.



Unlike my husband, I love baseball. Not enough to park myself in front of a TV for every game or listen to every play-by-play (I am, however, guilty of logging on to and “watching” a critical game or two that wasn’t televised), but enough to know most of the rules, enjoy the opportunity to see a game live and agree that it is, despite my track-and-field coach husband, America’s Pastime. (Side note: when my sweetie was cast as the coach in a production of “Damn Yankees,” I thought it was hysterically ironic. There was some really good acting there).

I even played baseball when I was an adolescent, a proud member of the “Coronado Creeps” of the Cabrillo Park Asphalt League. We played in the street with home plate in front of my best friend’s driveway and first base right around the Kennedy’s mailbox. Lucky for us we never broke a window or a windshield. I continued to play for kicks and giggles after college and can still pick up a bat and make a reasonable hit, but at my age, a pinch runner is a given.

The infamous Giants fan and daughter enjoying Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium. It happened to be my birthday too!

As a Southern California resident for longer than I lived in the Bay Area (43 years here, 20 years there), I feel the pressure – nay, the requirement – that I must be a Dodgers fan. I do enjoy the occasional game and am happy when they win (except when they play my guys) and I possess not one but two Dodger caps for wearing when the Giants aren’t playing. I really wanted the Dodgers to take the Series last year for Vin Scully, a man I truly admire (although my childhood hero was Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges). And I have a standing tradition with a good friend to catch at least one North-South rivalry game every season.


My “Free Gift with Purchase” son (i.e., my Son In Love’s brother) and his uncle try to bug me about players and their records. Goes over my head. Not into stats or RBIs or injuries. I just like the Giants. I’ve always liked the color orange. My bedroom at home was painted orange, my first new car was an orange VW, and I thought I won the lottery when my high school colors reflected those of my baseball team. But there’s more to it than that.


Even when the A’s settled in nearby Oakland, I stayed true to the Giants. I went to school with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley who pitched to Dodger Kirk Gibson on that fateful night in 1988.  Dennis, who graduated the year after me, was disappointed that he wasn’t drafted by the Giants in 1972 and I shared his adoration of Willie Mays, who we both saw playing at Candlestick Park in our youth.

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And by my side at those Candlestick outings was a woman who lived and breathed Giants baseball – my mom. She was determined to give me an appreciation for the sport and for the players. I can probably name more players from 50 years ago than those on the team today – Mays, Willie McCovey, Jim Davenport, Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, the Alou brothers, Matty, Felipe and Jesus, were my chosen celebrities. I wanted to have a black satin jacket like hers with the Giants logo embroidered on the back and front. I remember going to the grocery store before a game to load up on peanuts (because ballpark prices seemed high in those days too). She would talk me through the plays and show me how to watch the bases and predict who was going to try and steal or who could catch pretty much anything that was airborne.


Somewhere in her MomWisdom, she must have known I was never going to be an athlete, that I’d probably do something else like act or write. At least, she figured, she could teach me to be a good spectator and fan.


Then there was my dad. He thought Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were the greatest players in baseball and damned if they didn’t play for the Dodgers. So on game days when those two teams were going head to head, the excitement was electric. Sitting between them at the park, it was fun to watch their faces as they reacted to the plays on the field. They were some of the best days – and nights – of my life.


Speaking of days and nights, if you went to a double-header at Candlestick, you were guaranteed to cook and sweat during the first game and freeze all your extremities during the second one, with the wind whipping off the bay and right into the cheap seats. With the team’s move to AT&T Park, I doubt the weather dips nearly as deeply off McCovey Cove to require a complete change in clothes between games.


I was at a Dodger game this spring and a few rows in front of us, there was a little girl and her dad who were yelling and cheering really loud. She was dressed in Dodger blue from top to toe and dad was wearing his favorite jersey. They enjoyed a repast of Dodger dogs, ice cream, nachos, peanuts, soda and beer – the basic Chavez Ravine food pyramid – and they were having the time of their lives. It was a capsule of Americana, a date that I hoped wasn’t a first or last, but a tradition that she would remember and they would both cherish. I could see myself in that little girl and it restored my faith in a good old game of baseball.


That, I told my friend, that is why I’m a Giants fan. Not because I hate any other team (in fact, I don’t allow myself to use that word), not because I want to be a rival, not because I miss the Bay Area (I don’t), but because my memories are wrapped in that black satin jacket and those store-bought peanuts. And they hit a home run every time they come up to bat.

All three of my girls celebrating at Dodger Stadium this September. The Dodgers didn’t win this one, but we had some great family time and that’s what it’s all about, no?


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!









A weekend in NiceToMeetYaLand

The Portland Familia – Ana, Susan and yours truly. Just before we said goodbye.

So, the question of the week has been “How did it go?”


And the answer is “We had a great time.”


While it was a wonderful adventure meeting my new-found sister-in-law Susan and niece Ana (my only surviving biological relative – that I know about), it was a tiny bit strange for both of us. Not bad strange, but OK strange. Like being on a blind date with a cheat sheet, trying to get more details as the night progressed and laughing as we walked to the car, giving each other a final hug.


It was also a bit amazing. And heart-warming. And weird. And mind-blowing.


And good. Definitely good.


I’m not sure what anyone’s expectations were for this face-to-face meet. Did I want a warm embrace? Got several. Did I expect more questions? Of course. Did I hope for a spilling of the emotions, a “we’ve been looking for you forever, etc.” kind of response? Not really. I already got my treat with Susan’s enthusiastic “I knew it!” when I initially contacted her.

Susan and I on the waterfront in Lake Oswego. We were not drunk, I just hold a camera funny. Trying to be artsy.

What I wanted to prevent more than anything else was ‘the click’ that every adoptee fears. The “OK, we’ve seen enough of you, now go away again. Forever.”


Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There were lots of hugs and smiles. Lots of looking into each others’ eyes – for what, the answers known only to the looker – and comparing or pondering each other’s unique features.


Like my eyes. They’re big and really, really green. My mom had hazel eyes and according to what she told the state of California, my dad’s were blue. Nobody in the family that came before me had green eyes, but I definitely handed that gene down to my girls.


My niece and my daughters look slightly similar, except for their noses. My son looks the most like my mom. My niece has her father’s nose, slightly larger than my kids’, but the smile – that big face-brightening smile, and even the knowing smirk – is definitely something she and I share.


And the big, bright eyes. Even though hers are brown.


If there was one word to describe the events of the last month or so, it would be “overwhelming” and my weekend in the Pacific Northwest would have been impossible without the love and support of my extended family members from the theater, my in-laws and everyone Rock-related who fed, housed and entertained me while my head swam with new information and emotions. To them, I offer immense thanks for making sure I made this journey safely, both emotionally and physically.


Just when you think you have everything figured out in life, somebody pitches a wrench at you causing a change in your direction and angle and quite possibly making you pull a muscle. I was content with my little family of kids in three cities, my granddaughter becoming a fierce little heart-tugger, my sweetheart and I planning on things to do now that it’s just the two of us (well, plus our furbabies). I cook a lot, bake some, walk regularly, drink a lot of coffee, enjoy social media, play fantasy football, dabble in theater, advocate for the arts and am fighting my damned procrastination gene by seriously trying to write the books within me.


Then that yearbook picture surfaced.


And the whirlwind investigation began. And the finding … oh, the finding!


No clicks on the first round of calls. And an encouraging response to my proposed visit, which became an immediate priority. The Grim Reaper had already taken away my mother and brother and I wasn’t willing to let the rest of them slip away.


When I pushed open the door to Manzana Grill on the waterfront Friday night, I recognized Susan right away. We hugged a couple of times and settled on a table outside. There was some sizing up, and some heavy sighs, but I think at our ages (I’m 63, she’s a few years younger), we’re already comfortable with each other – new-found friends who happen to be not-so-distantly related.


We quickly launched into more questions about my brother; what was he like, did she see a resemblance, how was their marriage, was he a good father … you know, the normal grilling. I learned more about his reality, his strengths and shortcomings, his interests and his faults, causing me to pause and wonder how someone would describe me if the situations were reversed.


She told me that Amber would not be coming down from Seattle, that Amber was her impulsive one, contrasting Ana’s fondness for planning. I was a bit sad that she wasn’t there, but decided that it just meant a trip to Seattle might be in my future. And there’s always email and social media. I chose to focus on the positive.


We talked about our children, their growing up experiences and how grandparents (mostly my mom) played into the picture. We talked about work and the military and where we lived and traveled. I told her about my adoptive parents, how they were wonderful people and always supportive of my search. Talking to her, I probably unconsciously slipped into reporter mode, probing for details, trying to coax out enough to flesh out the two-dimensional people in my special adoption notebook that holds 8×10 prints of every photo and documents in plastic sleeves. It’s all I’ve got of them.


Even though Amber offered to contact my mother’s husband for me when we spoke last month, Susan encouraged me to make that call. She opined that he might welcome contact from a part of the wife he loved for so long, even if I might have been She Who Will Not Be Mentioned.


A potential click. Why the hell not? We’d talk about it later, Saturday afternoon, when she thought that Frank and I flying out for a meet and greet might be better. Our bank account has something to say about that. A phone call will have to do.


After a few hours, we ran out of words. We talked about where to meet the next day and where to park. Ana was joining us and it would be the first time I got to see her. I was excited all over again.


Then we got in our cars and drove away. Nobody was expecting me home and the sun was still up in a twilight kind of way. Both Starbucks I stopped at were closed and Siri was no help at all in finding a play or a movie nearby. I drove past a funky looking bar and restaurant and thought I’d stop in for some fish and chips. I posted a message on Facebook for my Oregon friends, telling them where I was in case they were wandering and wanted to join me.


I ate alone, then went back to my nephew’s house. His wife was home and we had a chance to chat. She was eager to hear how my night had gone, but I was still in the processing mode, so we talked about lots of other family stories, about their daughter and roommates and coworkers and the house and life.


The best this wordsmith could muster up in assessing the evening was “Good. It was very, very good.” And it was sincere.


You know me. If I can patronize a historic building, I’m there!


The next morning, I arrived at Kell’s Irish Pub a good 15 minutes before the agreed-upon time and while I was sitting out front, heard laughter and turned to see Ana and Susan walking toward me. And it wasn’t weird, it was more like a normal Saturday where three women met to go to Saturday Market in Portland. Those kinds of events are always more fun with a group, so you can ooh and ahh over things or snicker when it’s appropriate. It’s also a good way to learn about each other’s likes and dislikes. I learned that Susan loves candles (would you believe that we only found ONE candle vendor in the whole market?) and that Ana loves her cat (both Susan and I bought toys for the kitty).


Susan wanted to either get a henna tattoo or a caricature, but I hesitated, because a friend once had an allergic reaction to the henna and ended up with a permanent scar and I’m not too keen on the work of caricaturists. Visually, she dresses more like the free spirit, while I’m a little more reserved – the Grace to her Frankie. We briefly considered getting our faces on garden gnomes, but quickly kiboshed that idea. I bought a couple of toys for Sadie, some hot sauce (Ana loves hot sauce and the vendor got excited when I told him my son grew his own hot peppers) and we walked past booth after booth of eclipse t-shirts and jewelry (one vendor got very upset when Susan and I thought her eclipse earrings were sunflowers, show us that she had her husband make partial eclipse pairs with the black circle off-center). At the end of the market, we decided to go back to Kell’s and enjoy a good Irish repast and a cold beer, as the Southern California heat I thought I’d left behind had made its way north.


In the booth, we talked about Disneyland, Portland, grandma and grandpa, work, school (Ana’s upcoming doctoral studies and me finally graduating with my bachelor’s at age 60), my kids and when Susan and Ana could come down to Southern California to be tourists. I tried to explain where places they’d heard of were in relation to our house and promised to take them wherever they wanted to go. I learned more about Ana’s work on a clinical study and how she is on call even when she’s off work because of her subjects. I shared some of my career highs and lows, we talked a little politics and Susan and I talked about how much we loved being grandmothers.


Eclipse – chocolate, vanilla and orange filling

VoodooLayerOneAfter buying sweatshirts to commemorate our visit, the three of us headed out to a Portland landmark, Voodoo Donuts. I hadn’t eaten a donut for months (I allow myself two every January) and now they were taking me to the mecca of glazed creativity (there is one x-rated donut that is never listed on the menu board outside).



During our 45-minute wait (which I heard was short), I discovered a few things: they should sell sunscreen to the people waiting in line; L.A. does not have a lock on bad singers, as the Voodoo Elvis karaoke singer proved and they really are dedicated to Keeping Portland Weird. It says so on the building across the street.


The walk back to the car was short and we were tired from the heat. We knew the visit was almost over and they lingered at the car to look at my collected pictures and documents, posing for some quick selfies (Susan shot a couple of Ana and me, then I turned the camera on all three of us) before they walked away. I put my book away, stashed the donuts and hot sauce and toys and carefully tucked away the memory of our moments together.

Niece Ana and Crazy Aunt Me


My niece, in whom I saw my history. My sister-in-law – hell, my SISTER – who met me 11 years after losing her husband. Those who knew about me before they knew of me.


My family.


I’m still mulling over the memories and the joy in getting to know them. I hope they are feeling the same. I hope they know there is much warmth in my heart because of them.


And I hope we see each other again soon. After all, we’ve got a lot of time to make up for.



Liquid refreshment, the new PDX carpet and a great read. Highly recommend this author!

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Finding familia in the Pacific Northwest

So where were we? Oh yeah. Mom. Can you imagine being 63 years old and not knowing what your mother looked like?


That reminder smacked me upside the head last month when I got a message from a genealogist friend, asking me if I had found my mom yet. I told her I hadn’t really been looking lately and she popped back with “I found her yearbook picture.”


Holy crap. It wasn’t like I never thought this would happen, it just was unexpected THEN. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. Suddenly you have all these riches you always dreamed of, but you’re just not sure how to feel about it. You want to tell the world, but you know you need to tell your kids first. After all, this is their grandmother. Not Grandma Closeby or Grandma Faraway (as my husband’s and my adoptive mothers were referred to), but Mom’s mom.


It didn’t occur to me until then that they might have been searching for more people who looked like them too.


I asked her if I could see it and she sent it right over. It was Rusty, all right. And what resemblance I couldn’t see, my husband spotted right away. And my kids. And my Facebook family, when I posted side-by-side graduation pics.

There she was.

Rusty copy
Elizabeth “Rusty” Kilgore, aspiring journalist, Class of ’49 Miami Jackson High School.

Carol Kochalka, Class of’71, Washington High School, Fremont, CA

Her listing in the yearbook came with a quote from Shakespeare, “Be great in act as you have been in thought.” She was in GAA in grades 10 and 11, in the Glee Club in 10th grade, in the Dean’s Association in grades 11 and 12, was in the Future Homemakers in her junior and senior years and was on the Globe staff in her junior year.


Yep. She was an aspiring journalist. Check.

And a singer. Check.

And got good grades. Check.

And could whip up a frock and some killer cinnamon toast. Check.

I have no idea how it happened, but obviously the athletic gene mutated when it got to me.


Nature or nurture?


The initial message came in around 8 pm and the flurry of texts and posts between family and friends took up a good portion of the next few hours. It was 11 pm when another message came in from Liz, asking if I was awake. I confirmed that I was and she wrote “I found some more info. She passed away in 2015. I’ll send you the obit. I’m so sorry.”

I wasn’t sure how to feel. Three hours before, I was excited about the possibility of meeting and thanking the woman who gave me life and now those chances were dashed. She was my mother and I had suffered a loss, but it wasn’t hitting me straight on. To me, my mother died in an Oregon hospital in 1994 as I held her hand, waiting for the machines to stop and let her pass in peace. I remember feeling then that I really was an orphan, the parents who raised me were gone and the ones who made me were missing in action. Now, I was learning that for 21 years, she had been living in Florida, unaware of my existence in Southern California.


I think.


When you discover – or “find” – it’s not a simple thing. There is a boatload of questionable baggage that comes with it. Your facts are quickly overshadowed by the new questions you have, the unknowns that have been hiding behind the basics in your mind. Having birthed three children myself, I know I will always mark their birthdays, remember how they grew, what their little womb-tics were. Did I have any? Did she ever think of me? Was April 7 a special day for her? Did she observe it with secrecy? Or joy? Did she ever talk with my father, whose name is absent from every document? Was I just erased from her life – until another family member raised a question or two?


Liz felt bad that she hadn’t searched more. I met her online when a mutual friend, my detective buddy who was also an adoptee, passed my information on to her with my blessing. That happened in 2009. Liz did some looking early on, but we hadn’t touched base in a while. She told me that she regretted not looking more frequently (she found the yearbook when she added “Rusty” to the name she was submitting) because she might have found her before she passed. I told her that I never had expected to find my mom and if I had, all I wanted to do was thank her for doing what she did and that I hoped my life would have made her proud. And that I loved her because I knew she loved me.


Screen Shot 2017-07-16 at 11.23.00 PM
Elizabeth “Rusty” Kilgore Wright Howard. Photo from US Navy service in ’50s-’60s that ran with her obituary in 2015

She forwarded her obituary to me and it was like opening a treasure box. There were names and relations and occupations and all sorts of new leads for me to follow. Liz and I started anew on the searching, using Ancestry and other search engines. Mom had remarried (they were together 54 years, he is still alive and living in Florida) and I had a half-brother, and a sister in law, two nieces and a great-niece. Sadly, my brother died in 2006.


I’ve always said that Facebook is one of my best friends and was one of my most important reporter tools – those instincts kicked into high gear and I started some serious stalking. I found my nieces’ pages and sent them messages and friend requests – hoping beyond hope that they might take a chance and look at my page, accept the request and read the message, but two days later, I still had no answer. I tried LinkedIn, which frustrated me in the past, but on this day helped me find a gold mine. Using information that Liz and I had been able to procure from Ancestry, I was able to track back my sister-in-law’s residences and service records, finding her on that site. I leveled up so I could send a personal message and wrote an abbreviated plea to connect and asked her if we could talk.


That night, as my husband and I were dining with friends, my phone blew up with her response.


“I knew it! I knew it!” my sister-in-law wrote. “I knew he had a sister!”


I couldn’t write back fast enough to tell her I’d be home in an hour and that we could talk on the phone. It seemed like the longest hour of my life, but that night, I got to hear Susan’s voice and we talked about her husband, her mother-in-law, her daughters and granddaughter. Over the next two days, I got to talk with both my biological niece and my “step”niece who my brother raised as his own (she has a wife and an adorable daughter, whose birthday is the same as my granddaughter’s – cue spooky coincidence music here).


Susan’s suspicions began when she saw a telltale line on my brother’s birth certificate that asked “How many other children are now living?” followed by the number 1. She told me she asked my mother about it and she was evasive and defensive. It proved to be a sore subject, but as time wore on, mom revealed bits and pieces of information that simultaneously matched and conflicted with facts found on other documents, such as…..


Mom was not a Catholic, my father was (so I’m not sure who was Protestant) and his family insisted that they wanted nothing to do with me, which could explain why my adoption was so quick and smooth (my Catholic father was an usher at our local parish and the cheek-pinching priest was the one who arranged it). Because of that, sis said she had a lifelong disdain for the Catholic church. Ironically, part of the adoption “deal” was that I would be baptized and raised as a Catholic. When my dad died, I let that one lapse.


My brother, Jed Albert Howard


The health history on mom’s side was not as clean as California was told; heart disease and high blood pressure was evident in her parents and she and my brother both had blood pressure and heart issues. It was a brain aneurism that took him at the age of 42; her cause of death is unclear and currently, the state of Florida is telling me that I am not entitled to a certificate listing her cause of death (I’ve taken up this heated discussion with the Surgeon General of Florida). Later in life, mom had breast cancer and skin cancer issues and mobility problems; information that I immediately shared with my kids. And my doctor.


In talking with my new family members, I also discovered that, much like my adoptive family, some relations are better than the others; at times they were strained, but as we all agreed, “they did the best they could with the situation they had.”  In other words, both my nature and nurture environments were dysfunctionally normal. Funny thing, that’s exactly why one of my nieces is pursuing her master’s degree in genetics and neuroscience, to try and figure out why people are the way they are.


Although mom’s husband is still living and I have contact information for him, I have chosen not to disturb him personally. One of my nieces who is in contact with him regularly is going to assess the situation and see if he would be receptive to meeting or talking with me. I’m not sure if or how much he knows about me and I surely don’t want to shock him with that information. On the other hand, there might have been more communication than I know about and he might appreciate a connection to his late wife. Time will tell. I’m giving my niece as much time as she needs for this one. She did warn me that he and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.


Speaking of science, I did do the DNA “spit test” with Ancestry and I kind of feel like the lederhosen/kilt guy on the commercial. On mom’s side, her mother was from Scotland (the Dewars of Clan Buchanan) and her father was full Irish (Kilgore, a sept of Clan Douglas). She told the state my father was “possibly English or Scotch” – but Ancestry says I’m 28% Western European, 25% Scandinavian, 19% Irish, 11 % British and 10% Iberian Peninsula, with genetic communities of Germans in the Midwest, Scots and settlers of Colonial New England. I’m thinking dad – with those blue eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair – might actually be German/Scandinavian. The worst part, though, is that I found no genetic matches. I was holding out a tiny hope that I might find my father with that test.

Tartan of the Clan Buchanan, which claimed the Dewars


Tartan of the Clan Douglas, which claimed the Kilgores. Thanks to OffKilterKilts for research and findings!

So with the magic comes residual mystery. I have been sent pictures of my mom and brother and nieces, and I think my bio niece really does look like me a little. There are dimples and this full-on ear-to-ear grin that I am claiming. Susan said after our conversation that my personality over the phone reminded her of her husband, so there’s some nature there. But that little black cloud of “Where’s Papa?” remains.


My mother and Jed on a long-ago birthday.


This has been an overwhelming time, I like structure and planning in my life and this has totally been a wrecking ball to that. I have responded with a lot of thoughtful pondering, sometimes scaring my husband who fears that I’m depressed because I’m so quiet. No worries there, just a little befuddled. It is a LOT to wrap my head around and sometimes the words to explain how I feel just don’t make themselves available. But there is absolutely nothing bad coming from this – I know that because I am of the age and attitude of “What’s the worst that can happen?” – coupled with the confidence that whatever happens, it can only enhance my life experience.


There is enough love to share with my new family and I am excited to embrace them. I hope they are ready to embrace me (again, that “click” possibility). I love having crowds in my life, evidenced by our annual spaghetti gatherings and being the “party house” for birthdays and showers and reunions and goodbye parties and celebrating togetherhood. I earned the nickname MamaRock from my theater kids and my news colleagues. I like to take care of people and point the spotlight at them. I’m used to being the storyteller, not the story. This has been weird, to say the least. But bring it on.


Part of the cosmic magic that brought this information into my life is that my new family members are conveniently located in the Pacific Northwest, so Thursday morning, I am boarding a plane for Portland (I know. The weekend of the eclipse. Have I mentioned that good timing is not always my strong suit?) and Friday night, I get to meet Susan and niece Ana. I’m hoping the rest of the girls will come down from Seattle so we can have a family day on Saturday. Lucky for me, most of my hubby’s family lives in the Portland area, so I get to see them too. Should be a very interesting weekend.


Wish me luck.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Years, months, miles and mysteries

So I found my mom last month.


Not like in the “did she go to the store? Is she doing laundry? Is it Ladies Night again and we forgot?” kind of locating my mother, but a discovery that was a long time coming.


It was a little more than 63 years ago that my parents met a tearful woman at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital and learned that they, not she, would be taking home her little bundle of joy.


Anne and Joe Kochalka holding the future blogger at their Fremont home in April 1954. From the empty bottle, apparently I have always been a good eater.

I spent the next 18 years in their home, raised with love and rules and experiences and responsibilities. Was a good student, became active in my community as soon as I could drive and got into a four-year college with a scholarship right out of graduation. There was a lot of love and laughter in our house and I have aunts and uncles and cousins that wove a crazy quilt of love around me.


And through it all, I always knew I was “special” – from the moment I could understand, my parents told me that they got to pick me, which they thought made me better than any other baby at the hospital. Ironically, I understood adoption better than I did sex, because for them, it was much easier to have the first talk than the second.


In school, it didn’t seem to make much difference that I was adopted, but that all changed when I reached adulthood and had no idea what my ethnic background was, even though my parents spoke Czechoslovakian when they didn’t want me to know what they were saying and our dinners often featured fine Slavic cuisine (kielbasa and cabbage is a guilty pleasure and Buttermaid Bakery has my regular Christmas order for kolachi nut rolls ).
These are kolachi nut rolls. They are the most delicious bits of heaven one can consume and a Czechoslovakian holiday tradition. My mother used to make them by hand. I order them online from


I had all these relatives who didn’t look much like me. And I hated not having the answer to questions like “do you have a history of heart problems? Any cancer in the family? Are you predisposed to (fill in the disease)?”


And the dimples. Other than the parish priest pinching me until I winced every Sunday, where did they come from?


While my parents never kept secret the fact that I was adopted, the names of those involved were revealed only when my adoptive father died. I was 20 years old. Suddenly, I had two names that might hold the key to the Book of Answers. Luckily, at the time, I worked for a law enforcement agency that had access to DMV records and I found my “father’s” addresses and phone numbers immediately.


I could go home from work and call him. That night.


But for reasons that only fellow adoptees will understand, it took me five years to make that call. It’s not that I didn’t want to know. It’s not that I hadn’t fantasized in great detail the glorious reunion, the open arms, the rainbows and sunshine that would certainly appear when I was reunited with those who brought me into this world.


It’s because I could imagine what might be more realistic. A lot of murky water might have gone under the bridge in the last 25 years. I might be the family secret, not the “where is she now?” girl. I could be the She Who Will Not Be Mentioned, a scenario that many adoptees fear. That included me.


But the call had to be made, despite the possibility of a “click” once I asked that loaded question. I have a button in my office that says “Don’t Die Wondering” which applied to women’s rights, but now, I felt, was written for me personally.


I dialed the phone. My husband, who is my most ardent supporter and loves this little bastard no matter what, (I dig getting to use that word in its real context), was standing nearby. A male voice greeted me and I tentatively asked, “May I speak with Elizabeth?”


A short silence. “She’s not here. May I ask who is calling?”


This was it. The moment before the deafening click.


“This is Carol Rock. I think she may be my mother.”


Feeling brave and feeling that I had but nanoseconds to make my case, I added, “Are you my father?”


Another silence. But no click.


I heard him take a deep breath. “I am not,” he said. “But I would like to hear about you.”


A wave of cautious gratitude swept over me. I told him who I was, how I got his name, how I was raised in a loving, safe environment and why I was looking for the woman whose name was on my adoption decree. He listened and we agreed that a face-to-face meeting was in order. After a cordial goodbye, I made reservations to fly up to the Bay Area to meet him at his office.


He wanted a letter from me giving him a little background. I feverishly wrote a chronicle of everything I could remember, sharing highlights and pitfalls of the last 25 years. Emotionally, I felt like everything was going at a fever pitch, that I might be getting close to meeting the woman who I simply wanted to tell that I had been raised by good people and that I knew she did the right thing out of love.


And that I thought I turned out pretty good. That was important. I wasn’t letting adoption define me. I wasn’t angry, or looking for money or crazy. I was just an ambitious young woman with a lot of questions.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.53.08 PM

I can’t remember the flight or driving to his office or the restaurant we went to for lunch. I remember seeing him, his smiling face and outstretched hand. And I remember the gasp.

“You look just like her,” he said, apologizing for his reaction. “Except she had red hair. In fact, her nickname was Rusty.”


At the time, my hair color was my natural, lovely dishwater blonde. I had colored my hair before, but never more than an auburn brown. Never red. Didn’t think it would look good on me. It would be 20 more years before I colored it for a role in “Bus Stop” and decided that from there on out, red should be my natural color every four weeks.


We moved on to other topics. He explained that he and my mother were married in 1952 and that he was a pilot and she worked with the base photographer, both in the Navy and stationed at Alameda Naval Air Station. He was flying missions over Korea from late summer 1953 until he came home in January 1954 and much to his surprise, she was five months pregnant. When she went into labor in April, he did what he felt was his duty and drove her to the hospital. After checking her in, he told me that he left, chased to his car by a nurse who told him he should stay. He excused himself and the next morning, my mother called to say she’d given birth to a baby girl.


They tried to reconcile, but to no avail. He told me that they traveled back to Florida, where she was from, and he left her in Pensacola. He said what little he remembered of her family, that her maiden name of Kilgore was one that was as common as Smith in the South, and that there might be some family in Texas. He also said that Life magazine had done a feature on the base while she worked there and that she might have been photographed for that.


We parted as friends, I was thankful that he shared what information he remembered. Perhaps he was thankful that a day he anxiously anticipated for the last decade or so had gone smoothly. I decided to be respectful and keep my distance. He owed me nothing more and my debt to him was one of gratitude.


I flew home with a little more information than I had before. Although I was told I looked just like my mother, I still had nothing to show, other than re-living my presumptive father’s reaction over and over again.


Back at home, I started looking for old copies of Life magazine in the library, but could not find anything about the base or pictures of this woman who I resembled. Looking for your own face in a magazine isn’t easy, at least it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for. Dimples? A certain smile? Red hair didn’t show up in black and white pictures. (Remember, this was before the internet and searchable archives online. I have since begun to comb through the pages of the 1953-54 issues, but still no luck).

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.56.57 PM

I wrote to the State of California, where the laws still redact data (such as birth parents’ identities), asking for anything they might be able to give me. I got a one-sheet of non-identifying information that was obtained from a cursory interview with my mother. From that, I learned that she was full Irish, Catholic, 23, from Florida, 5’ 9 ½”, 155 lbs., fair skin, freckled, red hair, and described as “attractive and intelligent appearance.” She was a high school graduate who worked as a grocery cashier and was interested in photography and art; she had no prenatal care and told the state she was always in good health and that there was no history of serious illness in any member of her family.


My father was listed as Possibly English or Scotch, Protestant, age 23, and described as “6’ 1”, 185 lbs., blue eyes, dark brown hair, medium skin.” He was a high school graduate and a photographer for the US Navy. He lived in the District of Columbia and his health was “good,” but family history was unknown.


So I was the product of a wartime affair.


Another document obtained from the state listed that my mother was a Photographer’s Mate (really…) in the US Navy from 1951-1953 and had no history of hereditary disease. My grandparents on my mother’s side were listed as “grandmother, 53, high school graduate, housewife; grandfather, 54, 8th grade education, construction engineer.”


When this information came in, I was in my third year of college at Cal State LA and I found the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, or ALMA, a group of searching adults. For a year, I remember being active and learning how to become an advocate for myself and others, but then life stepped in and provided an interesting diversion. I became pregnant with my first child.


Suddenly, I had too much else on my plate to search. I was focused on becoming a mother, holding down a job, making a home and trying to finish my degree. But there was one moment when my inner searcher came out. When I saw my beautiful little girl for the first time, I looked in vain for the dimples. I remember being disappointed, thinking that I couldn’t even produce a kid who looked like me.


In June 1981, still 10 units short of my degree (but close enough to walk), I marched from the podium to the grandstand to hold my 1-year old daughter. A year later, she got a baby brother and five years later, our family was complete with the addition of another daughter – who had dimples. Finally, the ringer had arrived.


My family/work/home/life kept me busy and those last 10 units became less of a “let’s finish” and more of an “I’ll get around to it sometime.” I just didn’t sense the urgency anymore.


Kind of like my adoption search.


Until I met a detective friend who shared a contact with me that has since knocked me on my ass. Stay tuned. There’s more coming. Did I mention I found my mom? I’m getting on a plane in a couple of days to learn more about her… but there’s more in Part Two of this blog…..

Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

The unfriending of America

Cartoons are often where the wisdom lives…

I’ve started this blog several times, but the unending stream of fresh hell coming out of Washington has made me stop and try to make sense of things more than once in the last two weeks, wondering if my sentiments are current or hopelessly out of date.

A few times, I’ve walked out of the office simply stunned.

It’s taking me a lot of thought and even more words to try and understand this – so get a cup of coffee or Maker’s (or both) and get comfortable. It’s a long one.

I came home from the theater last week to news footage of thousands of people at airports all over the world after the welcome gates of our country were slammed shut to people coming from seven countries across the ocean. I saw families, professors, students, doctors, all stranded. Children in handcuffs. What the hell?

Two days later, the Attorney General was fired because she questioned the legality of the imposed travel ban.

Rich individuals with few qualifications and crystal-clear conflicts of interest were installed in cabinet positions because a political party decided they were in the majority so they changed the rules and excluded any opposition.

Legislation has been proposed to seize national open space for private interests, which will surely result in drilling and stripping and destruction of natural wilderness.

Public information that every American has the right to has been shut off from environmental and health agencies, which will result in illness, injury and death.

And the hits just kept on coming.

Truth lies dead at the foot of the Capitol steps and nobody in power seems to care.

I’m physically sick to my stomach. The thought that this country is being run by members of the Party of Condescension (Webster’s def: “An attitude of patronizing superiority, disdain”) who are hell-bent on getting their way at ANY cost, just knots my innards. Screws up my thinking. Makes me frustrated and angry. Gives me an understanding of people who have just had it and blow up. (Note that I did not say that I was going to explode myself or anything else, just that I now see where they are coming from, not condoning their actions).

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-34-49-pmI’m working on a children’s show where one of the lyrics of a song is “don’t pit-a-pat ‘em” – a phrase that I thought the writer might have used just because it rhymed with the “up and at ‘em” that follows, but given the current atmosphere in this country, I now know exactly what it means.

Stand up to it, kiddo. Be strong and proud. Don’t let the situation run you over.

The overwhelming number of people in this country – those who are railing against the wrong and demanding that the bulls in our DC china shop stop their wholesale destruction – are being “pit-a-patted” – that disgusting “Now, now, this will all be fine, we know what’s best” behavior, usually accompanied by patting someone on the head, by those in power.

It’s like those white guys in ties who tell women to lie back and enjoy the inevitable sexual assault.

Speaking of the viable threats to women, I’d like to remind all of you post-menopausal whiners that just because you don’t need the health services that Planned Parenthood provide now, decisions made today will affect young women for years. Put down the mirror and think about your daughters and granddaughters for a change.

I freely use the hashtag #notmypresident because it reflects more than whose name I checked on my November ballot. I will not support anyone who abuses the Constitution and his fellow Americans the way he and his cronies do. People tell me that I’m wrong, that the election results support the current resident of the White House and that I need to just accept that.

“Give him a chance,” they say.

“Lie back and enjoy it,” I hear.

Nope. Not this girl.

Eight years ago, this country made history by electing its first black President. Talk about someone who opened the doors on Pennsylvania Avenue to find a mountain of thinly-veiled racist obstacles in his path. Racist. Yeah, I said it. Racism is alive and well in America, especially under that alabaster white dome. It was clear to me in 2008 and it remains clear today, there were elected officials who brought their “Whites Only” beliefs to the floors of Congress and acted accordingly. Health care? Not gonna approve it. Hate it, vowed to work against it, despite chance after chance after chance to come up with an alternative plan. Supreme Court nominee? Simply refuse to act on it just because.

This is wrong on so many levels.

How many people would get away with this kind of behavior at their place of employment? But millions of people in America accepted this from their representatives. Double standard much?

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-21-00-pmWhere is the discourse, where is the conversation, the exchange of ideas and offering of both sides of the issues. Where is the compromise? Where is the teamwork that we depend on to run our country smoothly? Where is the representation of every American, regardless of financial or social status?

What this current administration has fostered is a disintegration of America’s standards, all the way down to civility, especially on social media.

I know, there are people who will say to just turn away from the computer if my feelings are being hurt, but that’s not an option. I choose to live in an environment that fosters discovery, innovation, information sharing, creativity, friendship and positive progress. Social media is part of that.

Unfortunately, social media has given people the same blinders they wear in the parking lots of the mall during the holiday season. People’s behavior behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle that seems to offer a shield of power (or at least the horsepower to make an escape if they feel threatened by someone they offend) is abhorrent. Along with the power comes a sense of anonymity, because who remembers the face of the person who cut them off or zoomed past them to get a better parking space?

That anonymity has transferred itself to a year-round game on social media. Facebook, which started out as a place to share pictures of pets, grandchildren and whatever you are eating has become a vengeful battleground, where hurtful comments are thrown indiscriminately at friends and foes alike.

“Unfriending” someone, which sounds so junior high, has become the second level of hell. If you don’t like something someone says, you have several options. You can simply not participate, you can block someone, unfollow them or (cue scary music here) unfriend them, a move perceived by many as the ultimate insult.

Go back to the part where I said I understood the people who blow up. There are too many times that comments step on someone’s last nerve and cause them to find that option and click away years of friendship and camaraderie.

I know because I’ve done that. I started on election night. I uninvited people to an annual party that’s been going on for 34 years. I blocked people who I’ve been on stage with, who helped raise my children, who dance with me and sing with me and know many of my inner secrets.

I don’t even worry about unfriending trolls, the long list of those already existing in my “blocked” file. Those got sent into the ether over things that have nothing to do with the person who gamed the Electoral College last year.

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-4-37-59-pmI’m not interested in creating an “echo chamber” either, a phrase coined by a friend whose opinions and information I look forward to every time I see him post. I enjoy the intelligent discourse of information between friends and acquaintances, and some of my friends who have polar opposite opinions from mine acknowledge that.

Social media is the perfect avenue for talking, listening and learning. But nobody does any of that when people are blasted by name-calling or criticism.

And to those who might say I’m criticizing, you might be right, but it got your attention.

It comes down to respect. I respect people who listen, who put down the mirror and consider others’ feelings and opinions without insults or slamming the previous administration or group. Everybody has a different circumstance, we are all cut from the same cloth and we only have one planet on which we must coexist.

Love trumps hate. Enough said.


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

A Winning Year on the Loser’s Bench

smallermugJust like me, two days late and 96 pounds short.

Still getting used to the last part of that sentence.

Sunday, Jan. 15, was my “surgiversary” – meaning that a year ago, I decided to save my life and had gastric sleeve surgery. Part of my stomach was removed and what was left made into a nice little “sleeve” that doesn’t hold much more than 3 ounces.

Buffets are a waste. “All You Can Eat” is a joke. When I have a drink, it’s one and done.

I have become the cheapest date in town.

I promised I would share my journey with you, the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears. I figure a year out was a good time to bring you up to speed.

Let me get a few things out of the way first.

  1. Yes, it is pretty wonderful to feel good and have energy again.
  2. img_3430No, even though I look like E.T. (see before and after pictures at right), I am not planning on having my loose skin removed. There are a few reasons for this:
    1. Getting “sleeved” is a tiny bit painful, but you get over it quick and I have been told by people who had skin-tightening surgery that it hurts like hell.
    2. The only person who matters (and the only one who sees me naked) is my beloved husband and he loves me no matter how I look.
    3. There is a reason that God invented Spandex.
  3. No, I don’t miss soda or fried food. I do miss rice and pasta just a little. And salad a LOT.
  4. And despite all the ill-informed people out there, weight loss surgery is NOT an easy way out. It requires commitment, sacrifice, holding yourself to a new standard and keeping your promises to yourself. And realizing that there are a lot of stupid people out there. With each pound I released, my (mental) skin got thicker and suffering fools became a lot easier.

All I really wanted to do was show off my cowboy boots, but the size 14 dress helped The Girls show off too…..

As the weight came off over the last year, I went through a lot of mental changes too. When you’ve always turned right to go to the “women’s plus size” section at Kohl’s, it’s hard to make yourself walk straight or turn left and go to the junior or normal size section. It’s also hard not to scream with sheer joy and amazement when you take a size 14 bathing suit into the dressing room at JCPenney and it actually fits.

If I try on a pair of pants and they don’t quite fit around the hips or middle, my inner bitch still tells me I’m fat. Body image is one of the nastiest demons anyone can deal with and unfortunately, this operation doesn’t touch that. Using the tools gained from pre-surgery classes, I’m trying to stifle that voice, but I have a much better understanding of the struggle as my metamorphosis continues.

I do, however, miss The Girls. I mean the ones that gave me cleavage and the comfort that, even if I had been pudgy in the middle, at least I had a decent balcony to perform with (don’t laugh, I thanked them for an acting award I received because they provided comic relief). I am finally to the point where I’ll be shopping for a smaller sized bra, with padding no longer optional.

I have collarbones and hip bones and ribs and ankles that I haven’t seen in years. I touch them with the wonder given a favorite toy brought out of hiding. I have batwings that I flap proudly. I’m still trying to get used to all this “activewear” that shows off my progress. I have donated more than half of the clothes in my closet to charity and, despite worrying that I’d want to keep and have some sentimental favorites altered to fit my smaller self, I have learned to let go of the baggies. My shoulders are not as broad and I actually have a waist I’d like to show off. New, more flattering clothes are slowly replacing the ones that camouflaged.

Out watching people eat just before my surgery date with Sadie and my SisterOutlaw and PartnerInGrandmoming

A year later, we both look better! And that little squishy on my lap is walking and talking and keeping us busy

It’s been a year of big changes. As things get smaller, some things got bigger. Like my hot flashes. I thought menopausal ones were bad, but they were few and far between. These come on in groups and knock me on my ass. I asked my doctor about it and he said it’s because estrogen lives in fat cells and when the fat cells leave, the hormones go batty. And burps? I used to be rather demure and polite, but now they’re three-dimensional, often with an introduction, first and second act and big finish.

I get asked a lot “what can you eat” – and my answer is “food” – but on the healthy side. Protein is a priority and I dine on a lot of steak or chicken strips, ahi tuna, cheese, almonds and Greek yogurt. It’s kind of the opposite of Weight Watchers – where they have an emphasis on filling up on lettuce and vegetables and fruit, we have to be careful about  “filling up” since we have a much smaller space. Having sleeve surgery is like giving the crankiest restaurant customer a seat in the kitchen – if they don’t like it, it gets thrown. Sometimes up. Gone are the days of giant salads, rice bowls (you don’t want to know), bagels (yikes) or heaps of pasta. I can eat a small salad, but I definitely have to prioritize what goes in first – meat, cheese, vitamin-rich veggies or fruits. And drinks are non-carbonated, low-sugar things like water, tea, water, coffee and more water.

morning-collageI’m a big picture person and every time all my kids are home, we have a family portrait session. I’m talking an hour posing in various parks and other rustic locations in the hopes of preserving our brood in a moment in time. We had a terrific session just before my surgery, but I was so unhappy with that, I asked my photographer pal (jokingly, of course) to photoshop out my double chin and all the extra me that was crowding the frames. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with how I looked, even though the rest of the family looked fabulous. Once the weight started falling off, I felt compelled to have another photo session, but just for me. One morning in downtown Newhall, a few changes of clothing and my spirits soared. The new pictures made my heart sing and gave me inspiration to keep working hard. Pardon my indulgence, but you have to do whatever works for you.

I do spend a lot of time reassuring servers in restaurants that I am happy with my food, especially if I have only eaten a quarter of the food on my plate (restaurant meals usually turn into three or four after-meals for sleevers). I often have have to hide my look of amazement when I see plates go by laden with so much more than we (and I mean all of us, sleeved or not) NEED to eat at each meal – the amount of food just floors me at some places. Not only is it hard for me to believe that I used to consume exactly that same amount of food – and often, dessert – but it’s also hard for me to understand why people don’t eat healthier because I feel so much better now.

My dogs are thrilled with the new me because, not only am I bringing home boxes from restaurants that often mean it’s snack time, but also because I will make a meal and sit down with what I think is a perfect portion that I am unable to finish. They lovingly and conveniently sit at my feet, because they know they will soon be feasting on the excess. We make sure they get plenty of exercise to work off their “treats,” and so the vet stops calling Gracie “the round one.”

Along with the dietary changes came behavioral changes – I actually enjoy getting outside and moving, and try to walk on a regular basis in the mornings with friends. I have a few angels who make the time and keep me company (and keep up with my non-strolling pace) and I find myself doing a lot of things I wouldn’t – and couldn’t – do a year ago. Just yesterday, I went out in the back yard, cleaned up a lot of doggie doo, pulled up some dead vegetation along with some weeds, moved furniture and swept, staying active for a couple of hours. My dogs were in shock, because in the past I never went out, let alone worked, outside.

Summer, 2015. I was Number 1 all right – Shoes didn’t even fit, and I had a great appreciation for elastic – and lots of fabric

September 2016. A year after that nightmarish flowered dress shot. Just got a new corset for my Voodoo Queen costume. I’m trying to think of excuses to wear it for more than Halloween!

I still love to cook, I just consider it more performance art than participation sport. I love feeding people and baking (I baked more this Christmas than in the last 10 years) and savoring the best part of the dining experience – enjoying the company and really tasting the food instead of just filling up and pushing away from the table. Believe me when I tell you that three bites of the best part of something is WAY better than 10 bites to clean a plate!

Because my job involves spending a lot of time on social media, I have to give a shout out to members of two Facebook pages dedicated to those considering or who have had gastric sleeve surgery. You have become my friends and supporters and I get so much encouragement and support and answers and camaraderie, I feel it’s an honor to give it back. You made room for me on “The Loser’s Bench” and I am proud to sit at your side.

And the best part of all, I have the energy and better health so I can keep up with my inspiration, Sadie Jane. I plan on seeing her grow up, graduate from school, get married and maybe make me a great-grandmother. She’s holding up her end of the bargain, it’s up to me to stay the course and make this life change work.


And she’s worth every little bite.


Photocollage and head shot at the top by the amazingly talented Sarah Krieg. Please visit her website at

Dear readers –

If you have questions about Gastric Sleeve surgery, please feel free to comment or message me – I am all about education! And if you find this blog helpful or funny or inspirational or just a good positive change from some of the nasty dreck on the innerwebs these days, please share it generously. Thank you!


Carol Rock is a writer based in the Los Angeles area. She is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience covering all areas of news and features. She works as a freelance public relations and media consultant, with writing remaining her strong suit. Her tattoo, if it were real, would read “Don’t Die Wondering.”

Your comments are welcome and always appreciated. Please share this on social media!

Confessions of a Bad Christian

I did not write this, but she speaks to my heart. The writer is a young woman who I have had the pleasure of working with professionally as a journalist and on stage as a fellow actor. I respect her views and beliefs and there is no better time for this to be published than now. I share my blogspace with her because I want this to go viral. Her name is Leah DiPaola. Watch for her. She’s figured it out and isn’t staying silent.


There are a lot of things happening in my country that I’ve been having an incredibly hard time dealing with. Naturally, I’m talking about the election. The 2016 Presidential Election t…

Source: Confessions of a Bad Christian