To Parents and Guardians of Kids Under 16

By Sergey Pesterev

Teaching your teenager how to drive is a thankless job. Don’t expect appreciation. Laugh off the frustration, anger and stress. It’s our job to teach them to drive well and safely. They have no idea how many new gray hairs have sprouted because they almost hit that car/curb/bicyclist. They have no idea how it feels (for the adult passenger) to be completely powerless as they hit the accelerator and then the brakes. They don’t know that they are steering a 4,000 lb weapon.

Just try to stay present and calm. Try. To. Be. Calm.

It will pay off!


Pedal to the Metal

photo by Samuele Errico Piccarini

We switched places at the gate

for my ultimate test of surrender

her smile and jokes betrayed her cool

take it slowly, speed limit’s 25 here


Am I OK?

Yes, you’re perfect


Yep, doing beautifully


As she drove (slowly, oh so slowly) to our cul-de-sac

I remembered my driver’s ed teacher

he was old (probably my age now) and balding

with two student drivers in the car with him


Emily T., tall, popular, blonde, took turns with me

She (with the perfect curls) could do no wrong

her mistakes were met with encouragement,

her proficiencies were met with praise


but me – with my glasses and foreign mien –

my errors were harshly judged,

and my victories gleaned silence

This injustice – as all maltreatments do – ripened into a gift


for his words and demeanor (and all the other abuses I’ve known)

created a wound

which turned into a scar

and thickened my skin


everyone knows thin skin bleeds easily











The 101 South

breast cancer.jpeg
photo by Taste for Life

My daughters are participating in a summer violin camp for 9 days. It’s a 30 minute drive on the 202 West to the 101 South. I’m always on the 202, but haven’t had to drive the 101 South much. I don’t like it. Drivers speed and change lanes quickly. They all know where they’re going and they’ll ride up on you if you hesitate for even a second.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t sleep for over an hour. I was thinking of the 101. But this time, I remembered something.

Seven years ago, I had to take the 101 South to a high school twice a week, after work. I was completing my M.A, in Educational Leadership and I was in a night class. I had just been diagnosed with early stage I breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. I was determined to finish the degree. So I drove to my class with tubes coming out of my chest. The tubes drained excess fluids where the tumors used to be. My chest was tightly bandaged and no one in my class knew what was underneath my shirt.

So my fear of this route was not so much the traffic, but old memories. The fear of infection, disfigurement, recurrent cancer… I had those thoughts during my drive. I mourned my life pre-cancer. Here is a post from that time.

My insomnia occurred on the seventh anniversary of my radical mastectomy.

Driving today, I felt much better. The apprehension was gone. Sometimes, just identifying the cause of one’s jitters and meeting it with compassion (not over-analysis or sentiment) can be enough to overcome it.







Some occasions in life seem designed to test you. I believe they are there to see if you do the right thing, which is simply to say nothing. If an idiot offends you with an impulsive, derogatory remark, you are the better person for ignoring it. I’ve been taught that and I impart this bit of wisdom to my daughters and students. Growing up in Iowa in the late sixties, early seventies, I was called “chink” quite a bit. I learned to turn my head and ignore it. At a roller skating party, a boy of about fifteen, skated up to me and sang loudly with the music, “Like a refugee!” I was eleven and had no idea what he was talking about, but from the laughter and looks his friends gave me, I knew it wasn’t a compliment. There was also that song, “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” which the boys really wanted me to know, but I digress.  I tell my daughters to do the same thing when “boys” or “people” bother them. I don’t recall arguing with my parents the way my kids do, but whatever….that’s not what I’m writing about, either.

My lovely mother is here to help me out. Because I am not allowed to drive for three to four weeks post-surgery and Willey has to work, my mother is THE driver. I will not alarm you, dear reader, by sharing her driving record with you. Let us just say she’s greatly improved in the last two decades. Let’s just say at about the same time boys were serenading me with the Kung-Fu Fighting and Refugee songs, my mother would feign any knowledge of English when she’d be pulled over by an officer for things like speeding or going through stop lights. She suddenly lost “all her English” and was usually let go with a warning.  I distinctly remember her saying “In Korea, no lights! I confused,” and the officer let her go!

When she arrived here at my house last month, I painfully detailed the importance of yielding at the roundabouts. We have two in a row we must drive through to get anywhere (Safeway, Peter Piper Pizza, the hair salon, etc.). “Caroline! You think I can’t drive? How long I’ve been driving now? I drive in Chicago! Mesa is so easy, no traffic.” I imagine the countless number of drivers who must honk at her (and give her other gestures) as she makes her away around, and I think her loss of hearing is a blessing in this case.

Like many of her 66 year old comrades, her hearing is all but gone. My sister purchased top-of-the-line hearing aids for her. Even with these, her hearing capacity can be 60%, depending on the condition of her batteries.  She copes with her inability to hear with the catch phrase she’s learned from co-workers in an Alzheimer’s home where she works as an aide. She says, “Gotcha” and nods her head “yes” at the same time.  Most people just say, “Yeah” and smile. My mom says, “Gotcha.” If you know my mother, this woman who immigrated from South Korea 43 years ago and speaks with a thick Korean accent, you would appreciate the utter charm of it. “Gotcha” and a nod of her permed head.

Yesterday, after dropping my daughters off to summer school, we headed to Phoenix to meet my oncologist.

“Mom, you’re going to go straight, just as if we’re seeing Dr. Parson, but Dr. Isaacs is in Phoenix, which is five exits past Dr. Parson’s office.”

With both hands gripped tightly around the wheel, she gives me a shake of the head and a  “Gotcha.”

She drives.

“OK, mom, make a left at Shea and go straight for awhile. I’ll tell you when to turn right.”

“You forgot to shave? That’s OK. Why you have to shave?”

“Oh.My.Gosh. You forgot your hearing aids?!” I ask in disbelief. Suddenly, I realize I could probably drive. I feel fine and have gotten a lot stronger since my surgery two weeks ago. My chest is throbbing, I’m anxious about what the oncologist will say and now I have to address this.  I choose to remain silent.

Another shake of the head, her eyes squint into the light (no sunglasses either). “Sometimes, hearing aid is bother. Really bother you. I don’t like them.”

We head into the office and meet a wonderful doctor. Long story short, he reads my six page pathology report and tells me that with the double mastectomy and the very small sizes of my cancers, he recommends no further treatment. No chemo! No radiation! Not even Tamoxifen! I am elated, ready for some Kung-fu fighting.