A man called Destiny

He hovers above, a shining pinpoint of light, so full of unconditional love, my eyes well immediately. Meditating, I float somewhere in between, held in my father’s embrace, a reminder of the tentative consciousness we inhabit.

He was my first love, my first teacher, my safe place. 

He was also the buffer between my Mother and me, loving her when I would not, an example of patience, tenderness, and compassion I could not yet comprehend. 

When I ran away and got drunk in the eighth grade, he brought me home, but not before we stopped by the Hen House for toothpaste and a toothbrush. 

When I was wild and rebellious, acting out and lashing out, he remained gentle and steadfast, never letting me forget my value.


An only child of Irish immigrants, Ehret Oscar had curly hair, delicate features, and a sensitivity that no bully could resist.

His parents made education a priority. With the support of Pat and Rose Nell Ramey, Ehret pursued a medical degree from Washington University after attending college on the GI Bill. 


He met my mother, a diminutive 89-pound southern beauty at Barnes Hospital. Ruth Wylodene Sturdivant worked as a dietitian and he was in his residency. 

They married and moved to Kansas City to begin his practice and start their family, He became a beloved OB/GYN but multiple miscarriages derailed their plans for children.

That’s how my brothers and I became a family. It wasn’t an easy configuration. With Dad at the hospital and Mom left to mind us, we fell into the chasm between our parents. He was a stabilizing if often absent force; she was minimally present, chronically overwhelmed, and woefully ill-equipped for child-rearing.

It was confusing and lonely for all of us.


It takes me years to forgive him for leaving us alone with her, and even longer for me to cut her a break. Raising my boys helped. It’s trite to say she did the best she could, but she really did.

After his stroke, my Father’s essence shines even brighter. Life’s extraneous noise rinsed clean, only his immense kindness remains. He was a man of faith; perhaps that helped him.

By then I am in my late forties and taking care of him and my Mother. It wasn’t easy but it did help me grow up. 

The week of his death, he labors at the breakfast table, so winded from congestive heart failure he can barely breathe. 

Between arduous bites of Honey Nut Cheerios, he smiles, reaching for my hand, “So what are we going to do today?” 

My heart and eyes sting because there is nothing we can do today, except wait. 

“I think we’ll just hang out here, Dad,”  I answer. He pats my hand.

My father died four days later.

In those days, hospice left you with the morphine and told you how to administer it.

I find his decline so painful that I decide to release him with a fatal dose. When I tell my younger brother, we hold each other in the kitchen and cry. We determine it will be the next dose, but when we go to give it to him, he is gone.

Loving to the end, our father spares us once again.



Mom and dad were happy travelers.

We know he’s hung on to make sure we’ll be there to take care of our mother. Reluctant as I may be at that point, making such a vow is not done lightly. We all agree and that helps free him.

When they come to retrieve his body, I don’t cry. I’m happy his suffering was over. The thing they take away is not my father.


Dad died in 2008.

A lot has happened in my life since then. I know my dad would be proud of me because he always was.

Despite missing him, I feel his acute presence every day. 

I hear his gentle voice singing a hymn, remember the way he put his arm around my mother, and recall his ornery laugh while telling one of his interminably long and painful jokes.

For many years, I wondered about my birth parents – why they gave me up and who they were. I was sixty before I received that blessing in the form of discovering my half-siblings. We share a father whom I finally met via Zoom.

He is not my father. He is just someone who got my birth mother pregnant.


My father, Ehret Oscar Ramey, was and is a gentleman who loved with great strength. I am so grateful for that fateful connection, my lucky destiny.

Happy 99th birthday, Dad. Thank you. I love you.

In Praise of the Grandmothers

As some of you know, I recently became a Grandmother. George is two months and twenty days today, but who’s counting.

Becoming a Gigi has transformed me in ways I never expected. My heart, now three sizes too big for my body, alternately celebrates his birth and aches for the challenges I know he must face in this life.

We can’t protect our children from this world, but we can make sure they know how much they are loved.

My grandmothers were my grounding compass. They were strong, faithful, and humble. Like other women of their generation, they were the grounding center of their families, working like Trojans, yet rarely acknowledged for it.

Both were widowed and spent much of their lives alone. Clara Mae Sturdivant, my maternal grandmother lived in Nashville, so I don’t have as many memories of her.

What I do recall is her kindness, home cooking, and expert needlework. I loved her mustache, ornate pearl spectacles, and playing with her underarm flab.

A devout Southern Baptist, Clara recited scripture like a preacher. She was pious yet I never judged or loved conditionally. 

The love she showered on me felt different than my Mother’s love. I now understand that mothers don’t have the same luxuries that Grandmothers do.

Since she lived nearby, I had more time with my paternal grandmother. Rose Nell Ramey was the oldest of seven siblings. Her mother other died when she was just thirteen years old.

Being the oldest, her father looked to Rose Nell to run the household, care for her younger siblings, and oversee the daily chores on their rural Illinois farm.

It was a huge responsibility for someone so young, but if she felt regret or resentment, she never voiced it.

That was just the way it was; you did what you had to do even if it meant dropping out of school in the sixth grade. She worked as a lunch lady at Boone Elementary School after my Grandfather died.

Grandma Ramey tried to teach me to take a humble approach to life. “Live simply,” she told me, “Be kind, take life as it comes, and remember it’s not personal.”

A compulsive planner, this lesson was lost on me. By carefully weighing the risk/reward of every choice and chance encounter, I’d be able to avoid the mistakes of my elders. I had an agenda, and it certainly didn’t include becoming a cafeteria lady.

On the lucky weekends I got to sleep over, Grandma taught me to make homemade jam from the cherry tree in her backyard, sew, and study the Bible. I liked the way she read the Bible, casually, like it was the evening paper. When I asked questions, Grandma asked questions too, helping me find the answers for myself.

At night before we went to sleep, she’d listened patiently as I outlined my plans for my wonderful life.

“I’ll take voice lessons and play Mary Magdalene in the Christmas pageant. I’ll sing at weddings and funerals too, but only wedding songs because funeral songs are sad….

I’m going to marry Doug, (the preacher’s son.) We’ll have a boy and a girl and live in the basement of his parents house. After a year or two we’ll move to Australia to do mission work because I want to learn to surf, scuba dive, and eat crab.”

“That’s nice,” Grandma said as she rubbed my back.

“When my kids go to school, I’ll have time to write a spy novel. They’ll turn into a movie starring Mary Tyler Moore and the Man from Uncle. We’ll have to move back to the United States, to California, where we’ll live in a house with big redwoods in the backyard. Our kids will play in a huge tree house.”

And when I told Rose I was moving to England soon to study English at Oxford, my Grandmother said simply, “I’ll miss you.”

She was there to witness my all plans go agonizing awry. When Doug the preacher’s son dumped me to date Melodie Bash; Grandma made me a new dress to ease the sting.

When I failed my audition for the Bingham Junior High School talent show with my dazzling rendition of Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” Grandma said, “Never stop singing Tina. If it pleases you, then it is pleasing.”

And when I my short story was rejected Highlights Magazine, Grandma instructed me to go to the library and check out five new books. When I showed them  to her she said, “Good. Now read them. Immerse yourself in something besides yourself.”

Unlike other adults, Grandma saw my circuitous route and disappointments for the folly it was. She neither judged nor falsely championed me. Instead, she offered support for the person and not the plan.

When I was leaving for college, I was overcome with a sudden, intense bout of separation anxiety.

“I don’t want to go Grandma,” I said, hugging her. “I’m scared and I’m so embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed?” she said softly in my ear, “Don’t be. Life is crooked and unpredictable and painful. You’re just finding that out.”

I looked into her eyes, surprised.

“But it’s also brilliant and beautiful and utterly surprising. I hope you’ll avoid the awful mistake of punishing or rewarding yourself for either. Worry takes all the fun out of it.”

Later that year, she suffered a stroke. I went to visit her in the nursing home. She was sleeping, jaw slack, lips moving, breath labored. 

I stood at her bed, crying because I couldn’t stand to see her this way.

“Why are you crying dear?” She garbled, eyes closed. That startled me. How did she even know I was there?

“I’m just sad Grandma,’ reaching for her hand. “I’m just sad.”

“Well don’t be sad,” she sighed, “I’m not sad. I’m here and you’re here and we’re doing okay, aren’t we?”

“Yes, Grandma, we are,” tears escaping.

“Well then. That’s enough. That’s enough, now. Let’s not be sad.”

Grandma Rose never recovered fully from her stroke but I never saw her feel sorry for herself. She met life where it led her, even when it led her to difficult places. She wasn’t one to waste time wondering why or why me?

When she died I was devastated. Oh how I wanted to bury my head into her one more time to tell her how much I loved her.

I heard her say. “Tina, why are you crying, dear? After all, I’m the one who died.”

I am grateful for the time I had with these two amazing women. Their legacy is one of kindness, faith, quiet strength, and utter resilience.

It’s my prayer and intention to do the same for George.    I am a Grandmother.

Homecoming in Jersey

As the train pulled into the Hamilton, New Jersey, I suddenly felt ill. I looked at Herb, stricken.

“I think I’m gonna throw up!” I moaned, “I’m scared!”

Waiting to meet us at the station were my three half-siblings, Darlene, Lorie, and Tony. We’d discovered each other via ancestry.com

“Hi Tina, my name is Darlene de la Cruz,” the message titled ‘Cousins,” read. “I’ve been investigating my ancestry and your name came up as a close match. I would love to correspond if you are open to it. I live in Bordentown New Jersey. Be well. Darlene.”

With help from an adoption researcher, Darlene and I learned we were half-sisters. Our father, Manuel was married to her mother, Delores. Together they had three children, Darlene, Tony, and Lorie. Elated to know more of my birth history, we planned a visit later that Fall.

“If it doesn’t work out, get on a train and come to Long Island,” warned my friend Gloria. “You don’t know jack about these people. For all you know they’re grifters, creeps!”

“Hooligans!” I laughed. “Don’t worry Glo, I promise, I’ll be fine.”

“If they don’t get who you are- if they treat you bad, cut your trip short and come see me sooner!” I also planned to see Gloria on this trip.

My sons also advised caution. I understood their concerns but wasn’t worried about the visit, until now. Now, I just felt nauseated.

“You’re just excited,” Herb reassured me. “Try breathing.”

We stepped onto the train platform. I recognized Darlene from the bright shock of purple in her short hair. Lorie, my childhood lookalike, gaped in wide-eyed amazement. Brother Tony, sent to watch the other exit doors, walked up with a shy smile, open arms, offering bear hugs.

We stood there a few moments, smiling at each other, stunned by our surreal reunion. Bags flung into the trunk, we piled in the car for the short drive to Bordentown.

Proud of their hometown, we heard how Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Naples and Spain and brother to Napoleon I of France, established a residence in Bordentown. He entertained famous guests like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and the future 6th U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. History and home are important parts of our family fabric.

We drove to Tony’s house where we met more friends and extended family. We sat in the back yard in a circle of lawn chairs, making small talk.

Suddenly Lorie asked, “Is there anything you’d like to know about our Father?”

“No,” I smiled, “I think I’ll just take all this in for a moment.”

There was a lot to take in.

Later, at the jazz brunch arranged in our honor, we met Tony’s wife, Melanie, Darlene’s wife, Sandy, Lorie’s children Ashley and Josh, assorted cousins and extended family which included my half-sibling’s half-siblings! Walt, a retired Camden, New Jersey cop, and Cheryl, who lives in Maryland, both drove in to join us. Lorie and her daughter Ashley came from Atlanta, and son Josh, in the military, traveled from his station in Hawaii.

“This really is a family reunion,” I laughed, humbled by the effort everyone made to attend.

Rosemary Schoelllkopf (aka Roe), Lorie’s plucky childhood friend also came. The next evening, after dinner and a few drinks at the local pub she warned me about writing anything unflattering about the De la Cruz family. I laughed it off, but she was serious. The message was clear: don’t mess with her people.

“How many nights do you want me to book the room?” Herb asked when we were planning our visit to Bordentown.

“Better make it one,” I replied, but when Darlene asked how long we could stay, I immediately replied, “two nights.”

Our short visit was filled with laughter, stories, food, football, and an impromptu trip to the Jersey shore.

I burst with pride when Darlene introduced me to her spin class, “This is my sister Tina who is visiting us from St Louis, Missouri!”

The class was full because she’d been talking about me for weeks. I met more cousins who immediately asked, “When are you coming back?”

Darlene and her wife Sandy have been together for over forty years. That’s not easy, especially when you’re a bi-racial, lesbian couple. Former educators, they now fill their days teaching and training at their health club. Sandy is spirited, funny and quick, the perfect balance to Darlene’s calm, gentle approach to life.

Lorie is the most like me; animated, outgoing and boisterous. During the Falcon-Eagles game, I watched amazed as she called every single play and player by name. Ashley, Roe, Darlene, and Sandy were all equally passionate and game savvy. I’d never seen women who loved and knew football like this group! I wondered aloud if this was a Jersey thing or an East Coast thing because it definitely was a thing.

I observed brother Tony quietly absorb every conversation, only occasionally choosing to comment. He is thoughtful and gentle and reminds both Herb and me of our son Cary.

In quieter moments, we talked about our careers, our children, our relationships and our struggles. We also talked about our Father. He’d divorced their mother when they were very young before they had a chance to know him. Each had a story about meeting him later in life, but none of those stories was very happy.

Our Father is Venezuelan and has eleven children. Darlene, Tony, and Lorie are from his first marriage; five more are from his second marriage. At least three more are like me, born out of wedlock. Let’s just say, our Father got around.

Each told a story of disappointment. Lorie traveled to Venezuela in her early twenties to discover her father had not told his second family about his first family.

“I’m sorry but that’s kind of F’d up,” I said when she told me.  “Did he know you were coming?”

“YES, Tina! He did!” Lorie said, shaking her head.

Tony, also went to Venezuela to meet our father when he was in his early twenties. He stayed longer hoping to connect on a deeper level, but after two months he returned home disappointed as well.

“I’m grateful that he gave me life,” Tony said on our drive to the Jersey shore, “but I don’t think he’s got the capacity to be fully present.”

“I agree,” said Darlene. Always the optimist, Darlene had a similar experience but didn’t share the details.

“That’s just so weird isn’t it?” I said. “Because the one thing we all have in common is him. And look at our hearts! They’re huge! We’re here loving each other and he’s missing out!”

Darlene said softly, “that’s true Tina.” Tony nodded quietly.

That night I wrote in my journal,
“Meeting my siblings is mind-blowing. We have an easy kinship and deep recognition I wasn’t expecting.  All of the angst, suffering, and displacement I’ve felt surrounding my adoption is dissipating. It’s like being able to take a full breath for the first time.” 

When Darlene and I confirmed we had the same birth father, I emailed him a picture along with a short introduction.  I left it up to him to respond if he chose to.  This was during a time of political and economic stress when communication in Venezuela was very difficult, so I’m not sure he ever got the email.  So far, he has not responded.

My birth father is now eighty-four years old and recently moved from Venezuela to California to be near one of his daughters. He lives there with his second wife who has dementia. I don’t feel the need to send him a second email.

As my biological father, Manuel Antonio De la Cruz responsible for my birth, but my adopted Father, Ehret Oscar Ramey, is responsible for my life.

My parents always told us we were lucky because we were ‘chosen.’ I never accepted that because I secretly believed I was damaged. Why I was given away? Why I was unwanted? I felt immense shame for being born.

Meeting my birth family has helped heal that wound. My siblings are loving, resilient, loyal, and optimistic. We love animals, being in nature, big hugs and laughter. We tell the truth, have faith in one another and God. We try to be kind and generous. We love to love others. This is my family; this is me.

It took me sixty years to understand that I was adopted, not abandoned. I was loved by parents who did choose us; parents who raised three amazing humans.

I feel every adoptee is entitled to know their birth story. In the state of Missouri that was not legal until 2018. Perhaps this was to protect birth and adopted parents, but the child is the one who pays the price. When you deny the child her story, she’s left wondering, longing to understand.

I still don’t know the details of my adoption, but finding my siblings has helped me understand more about my history.  This is more than an answered prayer; this is a miracle and a new beginning.

February Morning

Morning, quiet, dark, solitary has been my favorite time of day since I had kids.  

Sometimes it would be just me and my baby, nursing, quietly in a chair, my eyes focused on this miracle at my breast, so tiny and vulnerable and my heart would clinch tight and an immeasurable sadness would grip my heart.  Why, I’d think to myself, did I feel so sad?  Why didn’t I feel joy?

And I can only say because the moment was so damn full of love that, being who I am and how I entered this world, the same emotion touched a deep and unhealed void; some immeasurable loss and longing inescapably linked to great love.

As my children grew and my business took more of my time, I got up earlier and earlier.  

Sometimes it was because I needed to go to work early, other times it was because it was the only calm time in the day.  Mostly it was because it was quiet and solitary and I could hear myself think.  Sometimes it was just because my anxiety would not let me sleep.

Raising children is not an easy feat, and I must admit I failed them time and time again.  I was too young and too scared and simply too reactionary to be a great Mom, despite my love and intention for their wholeness. I was not whole myself.

I guess I can be grateful that two out of three of them have forgiven me and despite their childhood wounds, want to share my life and know me as I am today.

One does not, and because he was the first and it was so completely crazy, and he felt (and was) unprotected from his Father and my chaos, he has every right to be angry.

What breaks my heart is that he is so angry that he cannot feel his fear and move through it.  Some pain is just too early, and too deep.  The irony is that we share the same pain and are separated by it.

As I write this cold winter morning, before the sun is up and there is only dark silence, I am grateful for this time- the peace and the solitude.

It is now that I practice compassion for myself and for this day and for the people and situations that I will encounter.  It is here that I give thanks for all that is good in my life and all that I am learning and have to learn.  It is here that I remember that every breath is a gift and time is fleeting and today is the only day I have.

It’s humbling, this immense joy and I need to let myself open to receive it.

Breath in, Breath out, Breath out. Let go.

In Praise of the Learner

Perhaps the better title would be “in praise of the teacher” because who is the student without our teachers?

We can all name people that have impacted our lives in a profound and lasting way; people who’ve shown up in our lives, expected and unexpected to change the way we think about ourselves, our capabilities and our purpose.

I think about Stella Jacobi, my 6th grade teacher, a diminutive force of nature who inspired me to achieve more than I’d previously conceived; Laraine Sheehan Gordon, my high school English teacher whose exacting eye and commitment to excellence pushed me to understand the immense power of words; and Elaine Fischer, an 89-pound black haired whirl of energy who believed I could lead exercise classes despite the fact I totally bombed my audition.

I was terrified of Elaine, but her belief in me changed the course of my life.

There were other teachers, too- the ones we don’t immediately thank for their instruction- bad boyfriends and bosses and backstabbing acquaintances.  Perhaps their lessons are the most important because they wound the most. In retrospect, I’m the most grateful to the difficult people in my life because they challenged me to summon strength, resilience and compassion I didn’t know I possessed.

Having your heart broken also allows you to be more open; for healing and taking personal responsibility and being able to love again.

Being broken doesn’t mean being crippled- it does mean being vulnerable and it’s taken me a long time to see the courage in that.

If we are aware and open, our opportunities for learning abound daily.

A chance meeting at a networking event, the impetus to write a favorite author, accepting a random invitation to lunch, agreeing to hang upside down in a piece of fabric; life-changing opportunities are literally available in every moment of every day- if we are open to them. That’s where we must celebrate the learner.

Learning requires presence, curiosity, listening, and enthusiasm.  Apathy, indifference, and arrogance are the enemy of learning because we already know it all.

The best teacher I ever had was my Dad, Ehret Oscar Ramey. He was a gentleman, a doctor, a husband, and a man of Faith.

He was funny and kind and the worst joke-teller in the world. He taught me how a woman deserved to be treated, and ready to remind me should I temporarily forget.

He held me close when I was weak and loved me when I behaved like an ass.  He never scolded, never acted disappointed, never let me feel sorry for who I was. His love was unconditional- as bright, expansive and as natural as the morning sun.

My Father taught me a simple and important lesson: the power of our belief in another person’s worth and well-being. As humans, there is nothing more we crave and nothing more important we can share.

Thank you, Dad, for believing in me.  Thank you for teaching me to be open to life and ready to learn. I really miss you, but I feel you every day- in every sunrise, every laugh, every soft listening moment, you are with me.

Mother Issues

I wish I didn’t but I do.  I have issues; more than a couple.  

I’m a fifty-eight-year-old woman; I understand the nature of personal responsibility and don’t play the victim. There are simply facts that have influenced who I am and how I live in the world; one of the larger issues being my relationship with my Mother.

Ruth Wylodene Sturdivant Ramey had a big name and even larger presence.  

She weighed 89 pounds when she got married, a diminutive, complicated combination of waif and warrior.  My Mother played both princess and martyr; she, the consummate shapeshifter whose presence, though loved, was not to be trusted.  This planted within me as a child, a quiet bud of longing that took root until I too became a shapeshifter, never quite sure of my center.

It happens a lot. Despite our best efforts to defy, know better, and resist the pull of our past, many of us still end up becoming our parents.  I find this ironic and also hysterical.

I spent the larger part of my life disgusted and impatient with my Mother. I thought she was weak, manipulative, and narcissistic. I was embarrassed by her inability to manage her emotions, be consistent or take responsibility for her behavior.  She was everything I did not want to be, and that resistance to her left its mark.  I nursed a secret aversion for the feminine, a misogynis, afraid that being female also meant you were weak, indecisive, and irrational.  Predictably I cultivated the more “masculine” parts of myself.

I took charge, pursued success, and denied vulnerability.  I then systematically cut my losses when things didn’t work out for me.  I stuffed my emotions by overworking, overeating and overdrinking . I then took it to the other “extreme” and over exercised to try to right the ship.

And for a long time, it worked- sort of. There were jobs’ lost and relationship troubles and divorces, but through it all, I remained stubbornly hopeful and certain my life was on the right path.  My sons grew into men, my businesses expanded and I met a man who loved me, challenged me and made me laugh.  

I began to believe I might deserve this happy life and gave myself permission to enjoy it.

Last year was difficult, unexpected and distinctly unwelcome.  I thought I had done the work necessary to be a fully present, balanced and loving adult, but I was wrong.  The old shapeshifter resurfaced, adrift again, only this time it was worse, much worse because I’d believed myself to be so grounded, and faithful and true.

I didn’t see the hole, but I fell anyway, grasping for handholds that weren’t there.  From the bottom, I could see the light above but had neither the faith nor the motivation to muster the climb.

Time passed.  Things happened.  People helped me.

The other part of my “Mother” story is the fact that before Ruth Wylodene was my Mother, I had another one, the Mother that gave birth to me. This Mother was unmarried and could not keep me, despite the fact that she was already raising my brother.  This Mother planted the first seeds of fear and shame in me because even in the womb you can tell when you’re not wanted.

When I was in my early forties, living large and in charge as the manager of a local health club, I decided it was time to find that birth Mother.  Adoption records were sealed in the state of Missouri, so I had to hire a private investigator – Laura was her name- to help me find her.  She was an intermediary, designated to make contact so that my Mother and I could finally connect.

I sent my carefully crafted letter, with pictures of my three sons, my husband, adopted parents and siblings to my birth Mother.  I assured her I was happy in my own life but also had questions; questions only she could answer.  I already began bargaining with her saying that even if she could not meet me, could she please write and tell me my story.

I explained to her that when you’re adopted, it’s like having your portrait painted on glass- I needed her to give me the background to give context to my features.

The process moved slowly despite my anxious inquiries for updates.  I picked up the phone at work one day and was surprised to hear Laura’s voice on the line. I wasn’t expecting her to call me, so it took me awhile to process what she was saying.

“No more contact,” she repeated.  Your mother returned your letter with the words, ‘No more contact’ written on the outside.”

“No more contact?  So, is this is it?”

“I’m afraid so.  It’s her choice.”

I put down the phone and began to sob.  Crying was something I didn’t do back then, especially at my workplace, but I did that day.

I don’t know with whom I was angrier- her for rejecting me, or with myself for believing she wouldn’t.

I gathered my things and quietly left work.  I sat in my car for a long time until it was time to pick up my son Sean from school. He was eight years old.

When he got in the car, seeing my eyes and face swollen, he immediately asked, “Mom!  What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong sweetheart.  I’m just tired,” but it was obvious I’d been crying, and that meant something was definitely wrong.   We drove a few minutes in silence; I could feel him staring at me.

“Mom!  What’s wrong?  Are you sick?”

“No, I’m not sick.  I’m fine.  I just had a bad day.”

Always the sensitive soul, Sean, now near tears himself said, “Mom, you’re scaring me.  What’s wrong?”

I pulled the car off the road, exhaling as I explained what happened, “Something  happened today Sean and it has NOTHING to do with you and I am not sick.”  I told him how I’d been adopted and that for years I’d wondered who my parents were and why they would give me away.  I hadn’t told him or pursued it because I didn’t want to hurt Grandma and Grandpa. Finally, I’d hired someone to help me locate her, and they had.

“Today the lady called and said they’d found my birth Mother, but she’d sent my letter back and wrote on the envelope NO MORE CONTACT” at which point I burst into tears.

In that moment, I felt stupid and sorry I’d exposed my son to my pain.  He just looked at me for a few seconds, thinking. Then he said, “Well I’m sorry Mom but she must be a “B,” because who wouldn’t want to know YOU.”

His innocent compassion catapulted me back into the present.

What did it matter what she thought of me? I was his Mother and he loved me unconditionally. His honesty offered a profound spiritual lesson: focus on what is and let go of what is not.

This was the moment that mattered, sitting in the car on the side of the road with my eight-year-old, not some story about a stranger who, for whatever reason, chose not be in my life.

I wish I could say that I learned this important lesson that day, but it’s still something I remind myself to work on often.  The laws in Missouri have recently changed, making all adoption records public.  My friend, an attorney, is working to locate my birth records.  I am not looking for the same reasons I did then, but I am still looking for my birth Mother.

Longing, loss, and heartbreak have been recurring themes in my life. But so are loving big, laughing hard, taking risks and pushing my limits.

I’ve been told I need to learn to let go of control, accept help and be vulnerable- in short, embrace my feminine side. I wouldn’t disagree, but it still makes me smile. “Working” on this isn’t the answer- it’s much harder to simply accept, trust and let go.

I am not a Motherless Child.  I’ve had two of them: one gave me life and the other just made it a lot more interesting.

I’m not sure why I chose to believe their decisions were my fault; that somehow I was damaged, unloveable or wrong. I suspect it was simply because I was a kid who wanted to feel loved.

I like the poet Rumi’s words, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

That sounds true to my heart, and I’m just going with it.

The Power of Grace

Sean took this when Gracie was younger.

I first saw you on the internet. You were my rebound baby- chosen on a whim as I mourned the loss of my sweet little rat terrier Belle, a victim of a hit and run. Belle was fierce and protective, exposing her tiny canines to dogs and humans alike, any creature that would dare intercede between the two of us.

I’d wanted to replace her and decided I would rescue you, a furry little white pig from a farm in Iowa, put up for adoption by a Jack Russel Terrier rescue. I saw your wiry face on the website and made arrangements to make the drive to retrieve you.

Imagine my surprise when the dog that awaited me was so wild and compulsive, she wanted nothing to do with me.

You vomited the entire ride home from Iowa. I tried to comfort you, to hold you, but you were having none of that.

Our grand-daughter Madeline with Gracie & Jack

They told me you were about 3 or 4 years old then, but you would have never known- you had the energy and wild spring of a puppy, and my friends laughed at the marks on my kitchen wall where I’d keep track of your high jumps.

You weren’t interested in cuddling or learning, and I wondered aloud to my son at the time. “What the hell am I going to do with this animal?”

An old soul, only ten at the time, Sean replied, “you’re just going to love her like you did Belle.” Other sympathetic friends wondered if I should ‘take her back,’ but you can’t un-rescue a rescue dog and I took my son’s advice and let go to simply love you.

That was the first lesson you taught me.

I became unattached to what I wanted you to be and accepted you as you were. I prayed for Grace and named you that to remind me. I forgave you when you peed on the carpet and dragged rabbit entrails into the house. I defended you when you picked fights with dogs four times your size at the dog park. And I laughed as you skipped and ran like a manic squirrel around our backyard.

You had to wear a clown collar as you got older as you licked yourself silly.

I learned that you needed lots of exercise and we ran together in the days when that was possible for both of us.

When you got tired, you would just stop running and refuse to go on until you were good and ready. No amount of coaching or shame could motivate you; my little 18-pound Jack Russell taught me the power of clarity and decision in self-determination. You were headstrong and beautifully rebellious, and it drove me nuts.

As we both grew up, you opened your heart to me, gradually accepting the love and touch of others.

You began to let me rub your wiry neck and exposed your belly for a good scratch. I took note those many years ago when you ran up to Herb, on his first visit to our home, and jumped into his arms. It was so unlike you that it amazed me; you knew instinctively what I would come to learn in the coming months, that Herb would come to love me and you, and take care of both of us as our most trusted friend.

Small dogs live longer, and I was lucky to share your world for over fifteen years. I always underestimated your age because until recently you seemed so young, but like all of us, age became evident in your slowing down. First, you lost your hearing, then your eye-sight and finally your ability to tolerate the extraneous. You preferred your own space in the heated garage, away from distraction and noise so you could rest and simply be. In recent months when friends came to visit and asked where you were, we’d open the door to your room which we jokingly called the “nursing home.”

gracieSo, of course, we all knew your time to go was coming, but today was not the day I wanted to say goodbye.

You lead me once again, dear friend, as you stopped eating and drinking, finally needing our help to stand.

Today you could not walk and your breath, labored and heavy, let us know it was time to let you go. So we wrapped you in a blanket and cried all the way to the vet, knowing that you were counting on us to have the courage to help you go, but hating the decision all the same.

As we sat waiting for the doctor, both of us crying, I turned to Herb and said, “I guess this isn’t such a good display of how I am going to be able to help you.” But of course, that’s not true. Letting go of loved ones is a bittersweet reminder of what it means to be human… the very act of loving another creature all the while knowing life’s impermanence is one of our greatest gifts and, on days like today, challenges.

So I held you as you slipped away today Grace.

I loved you and saw you and took care of you through your last breath. Thank you for teaching me patience, and acceptance, surrender, and yes, perhaps, even grace. You, my love, were such a treasure.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I miss you already.

The Case for Daddy’s Girls

I am a Daddy’s girl; always have been.

That’s because I got lucky; the Universe paired me with Ehret Oscar Ramey to be my counselor, teacher, mentor, protector, and friend.  Ehret Ramey was my adopted Father.

As a child, he had curly hair, and his lower income family moved a lot which made him vulnerable to teasing and bullying.  He learned to fight at an early age, which knowing him as I do, must have been hard because his inherent nature was so gentle. I suppose those fights helped define who he was and who he wasn’t because as my Father, he never chose a fight, but also never stepped away from defending what he believed was right.

And what he thought was right for me, usually was.

I wasn’t exactly an easy kid, and being the only daughter, I know he worried and was disappointed by a lot of my choices. But he never judged me or ignored me or made me feel less than or ashamed; he was always there when I finally came home with whatever I needed; a kiss to my forehead, a long hard embrace, words of love, or, no words at all.

My Dad was my champion and I always knew that.  That changes a person. 

I liked to run away when I was a kid to assert my Autonomy and Independence. One time I “ran away” to a Young Life Skating Party. When my Dad picked me up and discovered his 12-year-old was drunk, he took me to the hospital where he worked, cleaned me up in the Doctors lounge, and bought me a toothbrush.  He said I’d better brush my teeth, stay away from alcohol and not to inform my Mother of my escapades.  There were a few things we agreed not to tell Mom.

My parents were married for over 60 years, something I both admire and am amazed by.  My Father chose a difficult woman to love and I often wondered how in the world he could not only love her but completely adore her.

I thought my Mother was insane but he was unconcerned, and in retrospect, his example of loving another human has provided something like a wellspring for me: a spring that I dip in when I am feeling particularly empty myself.

My Dad was handsome.  My Dad was accomplished.  My Dad was a man of service and his word.  My Dad was a teacher, a physician, a friend, and caretaker to all.  He loved to sing and dance and tell horrible jokes,
(and I mean B A D jokes). But he would get so tickled telling his own stupid jokes that you finally had to give in and laugh along with him, dreading the punchline all the same.

He also liked to make things in his wood shop when he retired when he was still able to, before he had his stroke.

After the stroke, it was my turn to give back to my Father and I am here to tell you it was my great pleasure.  It wasn’t always easy, (I used to call him Dr Magoo when I was at the end of my rope); loving him so, it could also be heartbreaking.

Once when I took him to the movies, we were ordering a coke and he couldn’t get the words out, grasping the Coca-Cola display cup with a death grip and just be mumbling to me.  I knew what he was trying to say and gently tried to pry the cup out of his hands as the fountain jerk (and I do mean jerk), just stared at us.   I wanted to tell everyone, “You don’t know this man- you don’t know how brilliant and kind and loving he is!  How many lives he’s touched- how many lives he brought into this world…” but instead we went in and sat down and watched the movie which made my Dad laugh a lot, and that made me feel better, too.

As I said, my Dad was a gentle soul and as a parent always treated us kids with respect even when we were clearly over the line.  I can only remember two instances when my Dad lost it and both times it was because my older brother or I said something disrespectful to our Mother.

The slap I’d never seen coming stung much more than my face; the lowest place I could ever inhabit was the one called disappointing my Father.  I burst into tears as he pulled me to him.  That only made it worse.  You can see, I still remember.

So, today on Father’s Day, I celebrate my Father, E.O. Ramey, and all the other wonderful Fathers that I know.  

What a blessing to be a Daddy’s girl because that means you were taught how to be loved deeply and completely by a wonderful, caring man.

Thank you, Dad.  I miss you.  I sure do.

Happy Father’s Day Dad from Tina Sprinkle on Vimeo.


My mom was 89 years when she died.   She was also feisty, hard-headed, and a little more than off-center. This wasn’t a product of her age- it was just her being Ruth Wylodene Sturdivant Ramey.

Five days before she was gone, she was eating with my brother at her beloved Applebee’s, crying tears of joy because he’d come to visit her.

Four days before she was gone I received a voicemail from her head nurse, Laura, saying that there was nothing to worry about, but my mom, angry that she was not allowed to sit in the nurse’s chair, had “put herself on the floor.” 

I sighed and asked if I should come out to help; they said they’d call me back. Twenty minutes they that she had simply gotten up and walked back to her room, having made her point.

Three days before she was gone, I walked into her room to find her breathing labored, her speech incoherent and alien.  

My heart sank when she was unable to navigate the warm cookie I brought to her mouth; her hand simply wouldn’t allow the task.

“You can always eat it tomorrow, Mom,” taking the cookie from her. But of course, even then, I knew that wasn’t true.

“Mom, you look a little tired today.  I’m going to take your laundry home and I’ll be back first thing in the morning. You’ll feel better then.”

And then, with sudden order and clarity, she reached for my hand and said, “Be careful out there, there’s a lot of traffic.”   

Those were the last words  I heard my Mom say, and of course, they could not have been more caring.
The fact that my mother was afraid of traffic, weather, and insults real and imagined, did nothing to deter her from fighting against it all. She took names after kicking butt, not before. You don’t apologize for doing the right thing after all, even if the right thing existed mainly in your own mind.
She and I took a long road home and I’m embarrassed to say I lived most of my life in reaction to her.  I resented her for everything we did not have in common.

She weighed eighty-nine pounds soaking wet and I was born so fat she wondered if I had a neck.

She was beautiful, dainty, and feminine. I was square, squat, and bald. 

As a  baby, Mom taped plastic flowers to my head to make sure folks knew I was a girl.

A southern belle, she feigned weakness but ruled our home with an iron fist.  The fact that she covered it with a white glove didn’t fool me-  I hated her hypocrisy and made it my mission in life to prove her wrong.

I called her ‘Little General’ behind her back and mocked her to her face when I was an adolescent. 

I loved my Father and couldn’t understand for the life of me why he would love a woman like her!

When he died in 2008, he wouldn’t let go until we all promised to take care of Mom.  

If there was one thing my Dad loved more than anything else in this world, it was his little Dene and he was not excited about leaving this earth without her.

He’d spent 63 years loving, protecting, and providing for her; he simply couldn’t leave her unless we promised she’d be safe.  

And that’s a promise you don’t make unless you can keep it.

My brothers live out of state, and though they were amazing about flying in and out and providing for her financially, the bulk of Mom’s care fell to me.  During that time we moved from her home to assisted living to nursing care to hospice.  

We suffered broken shoulders, hips, glaucoma and one death-defying visit to a psychiatrist when she became unusually paranoid and delusional.  

We survived nursing home bureaucracy, roommates that were “having sex at all hours of the night” and staffers who “cut the bottoms out of her pockets” to steal from her. Anyone could be a target including me. My Mother told anyone who’d listen that I earned my living as a prostitute and that Herb was my pimp!  

You get the picture.  I had to make a choice. Stop fighting.  Start laughing and grow the fuck up.

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was that I loved my Mother so much.  I was completely unprepared for how deeply I wanted to be with her, take care of her and be strong for her.  This was not me.  

And so, as she reclaimed her innocence; when her days became indistinguishable from the other, when she wept because she was so confused, I was happy to be there – to learn that I could comfort her and give her peace.  

We went to Applebee’s and painting class and Sonic and JC Penney. We went to the movies, the museum and to the park. We got manicures and pedicures and even a facial!

But her favorite pastime was sitting in the common area at Delmar Gardens, delighting in tawdry gossip about each person who might walk by.

My Mother had a detailed imagination and once she got started on a yarn, you’d just as soon settle in and listen.  

And so I learned to listen to her without having to be reasonable, and her stories made us both laugh…. and the more I laughed, the more she told them until it didn’t matter anymore- and soon we were two ladies cackling and being silly.

I wouldn’t trade a moment of the last few years of my Mom’s life because we finally got to have the kind of relationship I’d always wanted. I knew she loved me and I knew I loved her.

When I was younger acting like a know it all, my Mom warned me, “Best not to count your chickens before they’re hatched, Tina.”    

It was lost on me then; I just thought she was a hayseed from Tennessee. But now I understand.

Life is a miracle that will surprise you every damn day if you let it. And so, today, on Mother’s Day, I’ll not count my chickens; just my blessings. 

We love you, Mom! We miss you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!

Boredom and Buried Treasure on my SurgiBattical

The Power of Three.

Three years. Three Hips. Three Weeks. Three days.

In recovery, obviously still sedated

It’s been three weeks and three days since my third hip replacement, each of which I have had exactly three years apart.

Seems like a pattern here.  A pattern that needs to stop.

It’s not that I don’t like hospitals (I don’t like hospitals), or my doctors (two out of three ain’t bad), or pain (the myth about women having a higher pain tolerance is untrue); it’s about all the questions about why, why, why Tina- why YOU?

I guess it would be normal for people to think that my being reasonably young (for a hip replacement) and proactive and fit, that I would be able to avoid these constant revisions.

“Do you think you did too many step classes?” (spinning classes, aerobic classes, etc) “Did you cut your physical therapy too short?”  “Maybe you came back too soon?”  “Do you have osteoporosis?”  “What’s wrong with your bones?”

The implication seems to be (no matter how unintentionally), that I did something to create my situation. And I guess I did.  I was born… to parents who also had arthritis; a condition that most of us will develop to some degree as we age.   I just happened to be one of those who developed it early.

I don’t mean to sound testy.  I get it. No one wants to believe you have to have three hip replacements before your mid fifties to get it right.  But I did.  And it sucks.


The Good News.

When I posted this picture on FB everyone wondered if he was married! Let’s show some respect people- he’s a Doctor!

My physician, Dr. Scott Wingertner, (who may look like he’s twelve but is actually a brilliant surgeon), told me he’s very confident this will be my last revision. Yeah!!!

There was a problem after all with my bones: they were too hard! Hard enough that it was difficult to scrape down far enough into the bone bed to get a secure set of the cup- harder still to drill in the multiple screws that we trust will keep the damned thing in place this time. The irony of course is that my bones were not too soft to hold the cup in place, but too hard! Now that’s freaking hilarious!

The recovery too will be hard.  Hard because the incision was different.  Hard because I’m that much older and my poor muscles are confused having performed acrobats to accommodate the previous surgeries.  That means it’s going to take more time to recover.  That means I’m going to have to stay quiet, follow directions, take it slow and mind my manners- all traits that are not organically Tina. You see my dilemma.


Justin Trent, my beloved PT

Boredom and Buried Treasure

So it’s been three weeks and three days since my surgery.  It took two weeks to get out of bed, three weeks to toss the walker and three weeks and three days to feel like my brain is clear enough to write this blog.

It will be three months I am told, before I can return to work and a normal schedule. Are you kidding me?  Yeah, that’s exactly what I said. But it’s true.  So what am I to do?

I think a good place to start is being grateful.

If there’s one thing getting set on your ass will show you, it’s who your friends are. I’ve been blown away (and I mean blown away) by the amazing support of my friends, family and community. Daily cards, emails, texts, meals, flowers, gifts and wishes for healing have humbled me and brought me to tears.  If one of life’s big lessons is to learn to be vulnerable, trust and accept, then I am getting my Phd.

Any entrepreneur would be nervous about leaving their business in the hands of others, but my amazing 1901 staff and coaching community have shown me just how powerful a team can be when they share the same values and vision. They’ve not missed a beat in taking care of our clients, of one another, and me.

You might think learning life goes on without you would pop your balloon, but it’s given mine an unexpected rise instead. I might actually be able to use this time to focus on all those things I’ve been saying I want to do instead of chasing my tail worrying about what might be falling through the cracks. My gratitude to my staff is immense for this.  To this I can only say, thank you, thank you, and thank you.


Flowers ARE Medicine!

The Book

Many of you know, I’ve been talking about writing a book for sometime. Now, it seems, I have no excuse.  I have the time and I have the support to write it.  So, (and I know this public statement is going to cause me some major 2 am anxiety), I am going to begin writing more regularly and trust that the book takes shape.

So what is this book about? It’s about you. It’s about everything I’ve learned (and am still learning) from you all these years teaching health and fitness. It’s about your questions, your frustrations, your desires and your fear of failure. It’s about possibility and freedom and daring to live your best life every day.

That’s what the book is about!  Do I have the answer?  NO.  Do I have a solution.

YES, I do!  Many!  And the suggestions I will make are culled directly from the lessons learned by living and working and playing with you, my friends and family and clients.

About this time, you’re thinking, okay Tina, let’s step away from the hydrocodone.

But, it’s not the drugs.  (I am writing this sans pain medicine)  If I seem high, it’s because I’m so excited about sharing your stories. I’ve seen first hand the miracles that happen when ordinary people make the decision to create profound change in their lives, simply by shifting their beliefs- by accepting that they have the power to do so.

Mom and me circa 2013

John Irving wrote, “Good habits are worth being fanatical about.”  So pardon me if I sound a bit fanatical.  I’ve been at home for three weeks, eating good food lovingly prepared by my partner, my friends, my staff and my awesome community. I’ve had time to reflect on what’s most important to me, who’s most important to me, the casual treasures of every day life, and the poignancy and potential of random acts of kindness.

When I was a kid, complaining because I was restless and bored, my Mom used to say, “Only boring people are bored,” but never suggested what else I might do. I guess she was what you might call a ‘do it yourself parent’, a fact that I hadn’t fully appreciated perhaps, until now.

So Mom, I hear ya loud and clear. I ain’t bored and I sure as hell ain’t boring. I’ve found something to do.