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The Story in Photos

My Croatian grandmother used to send us huge boxes of beautiful dresses she had designed and sewn for Krissie, who loved and wore them with pride. With only an 8th-grade education, my grandmother became a mini-real estate tycoon in Everett, Washington.

John remained in Germany after we separated, but he flew out to visit his two cowboys, pictured here in our first apartment in California. Seeing the kids dissolve into tears at the airport each time John left for Landstuhl was the most painful period in my life up to that point.

Krissie was as adventurous as Michel and followed him everywhere, including up this tree ladder. My hopeful little Krissie cat would find herself stuck in the branches until I or a friend rescued her.

I worried that Krissie was becoming dependent on Michel, so I enrolled her at a different school where she could find new friends her own age. The place was considered "progressive" - many of the teachers were male, the student body was extremely diverse, and the principal raised live tarantulas in her office. Krissie blossomed there.