Friday, July 31, 2009

seven quick bits...& just one more

  1. i read an article the other day by a mom who was lamenting that she wishes she were a "summer mom" but who has discovered that she's more of a "school mom". my favorite line went something like, "the best days of the year are the last day of school and the first day of school." i couldn't agree more. all that anticipation of summer vacation and all the fun is big...but is currently greatly diminished these days by school anticipation. bring it on.
  2. speaking of summer, who forgot to "roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of summer," anyhow? crazy, yes; hazy, yes; but, lazy? not so much.
  3. speaking of crazy, did i mention my new job? (part-time editor for marketing and communications at a local community college.) the job is not crazy, no. it's the thought that i actually have a skill that someone will pay me for. i'm not thinking that ought to feel so crazy, as once upon a time (not really that long ago) i had a real, grown-up, full-time job. but six years later, when all of my regular jobs are very much unpaid (though i think someone ought to pay me to clean the bathroooms), it's mind-blowing that someone will pay me to sit all by myself in a spacious, quiet office that's all mine and read stuff. really? are you sure? because i think i'd do this for free.
  4. speaking of space to myself, my dear husband has taken my threat to run away and start a new life to heart and is sending me off to a friend's cabin in the woods for a few days. by myself. with nothing to do. at all. assuming i don't get murdered or lost in the woods or kidnapped (i watch too much "law and order"), i have no idea what i'm going to do with all that space. read? write? i might even get started on eliza's baby book...which would maybe not be relaxing.
  5. speaking of eliza's baby book, a tip for the frugal: i just discovered that shipping on kodak gallery is free all the time now. a good time to make thousands of prints, maybe, which would be the first step in said baby book.
  6. speaking of the baby book, i don't want to make it.
  7. speaking of things i don't want to do, i'm wondering how, of all the things on my summer to-do list (clean outdoor storage closet, for example, or clean front porch), the only thing that has gotten done is moving the bulletin board from the kitchen to the "office" (aka upstairs hallway where the computer lives). time to start the fall to-do list, i guess.

& just one more: speaking of frugal, tomorrow is day one of life on a budget around here. it's about time. (target is going to be sorry.) i'll confess, though, that whenever i look into those online coupon sites or savings games or grocery blogs, i get very intimidated. if i can't even make progress on a summer to-do list, i'm not sure i'll ever be organized enough to keep up with those people. if only.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

a justification for hope

tuesday morning, 9am. seen at the curb:

(yup, i took a picture. i just love a story with a happy ending, not to mention a photo to prove it. i ran out on the porch in my bathing suit, getting ready as i was to head to the pool. i think the recycling man thought i was crazy. but he seriously dented my fabulous new blue cart with his magical automatic arm, so whatever.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

recycled hope

(remember that post about what i'm not? how i'm not predictable? here's the proof: posts about the loss of my daughter and my new recycling cart, all in the same night. don't say i didn't warn you.)

it's like some absurd great blue hope.

several weeks ago, a new-and-improved, bigger-is-better, brand-spanking-new lidded recycling cart was delivered to our house. i use the passive voice here--was delivered--because i'm not quite sure who delivered it. it appeared almost magically, along with a fancy color-coded calendar detailing the dates it would be emptied by that truck-with-a-magical-automatic-arm and an explanation of how the pilot program using these bigger-is-better carts had magically increased recycling rates by 80% or something fantastic like that in the trial neighborhoods. great. no more little overflowing lidless bins and more room for all those bottles and cans. and even old phonebooks now--big news! we don't need no stinkin' bins! the only catch is that the carts will only be emptied once every two weeks instead of every week. no problem; we've got more than double the room in the cart. so we dutifully posted our calendar in our kitchen and awaited the magical first day.

two weeks seemed a long wait.

tuesday, july 21. all up and down the street, neighbors had lined up their new-and-improved blue carts at the specified distance from the curbs and from their driveways. no pizza boxes blew along the curbs; no stray cans rolled down the sidewalks. everyone had plenty of room for two weeks' worth of recycling with room to spare to close the lids. beautiful.

and so we waited (at least those of us with truck-obsessed sons with nothing better to do). matching green rolling carts--for the un-recyclables--were emptied and rolled back away from the curbs. magical blue carts waited patiently as the sun went down on tuesday, july 21, eagerly-anticipated pick-up day #1. wednesday came, and a glance up and down the street showed that we were all holding firm in our expectation of the first collection: the blue carts continued their vigil at the curb. wednesday went, and ushered in thursday. but we would not back down. thursday after work, the first of us gave in. but it would be another two weeks! so most of us held out. friday? more of us lost hope and rolled back from the curb. maybe a saturday pick-up? it would be magical...saturday afternoon, we lost more die-hards. by sunday, perhaps conceding to peer pressure or maybe out of respect for the sabbath, all the carts had retreated. the neighborhood admitted defeat. but would the carts hold two more weeks' worth of recyclables?

tonight, just six days after our big disappointment and barely forty-eight hours after our concession, the neighborhood has rallied. fully one week before the next scheduled pick-up, on the eve of what would have been pick-up morning with our good old once-a-week bins--we don't need no stinkin' color-coded calendar!--the great blue hope has returned: the carts are back at the curb. lined up, tidily, hopefully, awaiting the magic.

it should be an exciting morning.


(is it just about the carts this time? because it's usually not. but maybe this time it is. or maybe it's about persisting in hope, challenging the odds, bucking the trends, defying authority, demanding our rights, keeping our chins up, saving the earth, unting as a community?...nah.)

psych 101

i probably would have been a psychology major, if not for the mouse experimentation thing. and i would have gotten a good education at it, no doubt, graduating as i did from the college that produced b.f. skinner. (produced ezra pound, too, by the way, he who said, "The real trouble with modern war is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people." hmm...okay, not a politically popular figure for sure, but considered no slouch among literary minds anyhow, political foolishness aside).

ahem. as i was saying, i wish i had spent more time studying how the mind works. but since i didn't (and since i doubt that psych department had all the answers anyhow), i've got a lot of someday questions.

i think i mentioned that i've spent a lot of time thinking about pictures since eliza died. if you know me, you know i take a lot of pictures anyhow, and i was diligent to take lots and lots throughout eliza's life. i'm pretty sure i have a picture of her with just about every person who held her in her life, medical folks aside (and some of those people, too), which, considering how popular she was, is quite a few pictures. there was a sense of urgency to capture all the "moments" in her life, fleeting as those moments were expected to be. and then, as i grew more complacent about her longevity, i took fewer pictures. i was less willing to disturb her to make sure she was included in a family picture, less likely to fuss with her to take a picture when i realized it had been a few weeks. and as my complacency grew, little did i know that her moments were indeed increasingly fleeting.

you can maybe imagine my struggle, then, to come to terms with the fact that i have no pictures from the last six weeks of eliza's life (no, i think you can't. it's indescribable. but i'll pretend you can). when your life is less than three years long, six weeks is a significant chunk. no pictures between halloween (sweet bunny that she was) and december 12. no pictures of her last visit with her grandparents, just a month before she died; no pictures of her last visit with her godparents (for our annual thanksgiving-and-charlie-brown-christmas-and-"family"-photo festivities) just a couple of weeks before she died; no pre-Christmas card-worthy family photo. in the early weeks after eliza's death, this lack of pictures haunted me. and i still feel guilty taking a family picture without her.

(the psychology thing is coming, i promise. wait for it.)

tonight, as i looked at a professional family picture taken just after eliza's second birthday, my thoughts went something like this: "what a shame that we didn't take another picture like that last summer. i hate that we don't have any later family pictures. oh well. we need to make sure to take one this week." of all of us. seven and a half months later, in the midst of a thought about what a shame it is that eliza is gone and no longer in family pictures, i thought we should take a family picture. of the four of us, i mean.

yes, i've got lots of questions about how the mind works.

i doubt, even if i had majored in psychology, i would understand the curse of memory, the trouble with rehearsal and routine. i doubt, even if i had followed in b.f. skinner's footsteps, i would be able to erase what is burned on my mind: that is, the craving for something to hang onto, a way to capture a moment, even a moment that doesn't exist. because "the four of us" doesn't exist anymore, not in any way i can capture in a picture. seven and a half months and dozens of family-of-three pictures later, the longing to capture some lost--absolutely, impossibly lost--moment still lingers, like a once-sweet aroma now turned eye-stinging odor.

i had plenty of encouragement to take pictures those last days. our photographer friend offered to take a family picture; our doctor friend, who stepped out our front door literally only seconds before eliza took her last breath, encouraged us to take some pictures right away. but she looked so sick, or i didn't want to disturb her sleep (drug-induced and much-craved all around), or i was too sick to make the effort, or she hadn't had a bath, and on and on. i had even arranged for a family picture session with a photographer from now i lay me down to sleep in honor of eliza's january birthday, to be taken after the holiday rush; no doubt i could have contacted her and moved our family up the priority chain.

but i didn't. and now i can't.

yet apparently, my mind hasn't caught up with that reality yet. maybe i'll take that family picture tomorrow and make up for missing so many moments these past seven and a half months.

no, they didn't cover this in my intro psych course.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

seven quick bits...& just one more

my irl friend twosquare writes these "seven quick takes" posts occasionally, an idea she got from another blogger friend, i think. i've made up my own a-bit-more-of-me-&-just-one-more version:

seven things i am not (no matter how hard i try):
  1. i am not a girly girl. i don't paint my nails (i usually don't even have any nails). i'm not much good at decorating. i don't wear pink. i don't find wedding or baby shower games all that amusing (except when i win, which i did today--twice--though once was admittedly a very admirable team effort). i was never much good at ballet. i'll confess to liking dressing up once in a while, but i'd rather do it to go to work or go out to dinner with my husband than to go to a girl party. no matter how much i'd like it to, "feminine" will never describe me.
  2. i am not a sunscreen-wearer. i have never been much of a that-will-never-happen-to-me-because-i'm-too-young kind of person, but when it comes to sun exposure, i am. i blame it on growing up under sun-deprived conditions. and with a mom who is a sunbather and taught me how to do it. i'm waiting for them (whoever they are) to change their minds about sun exposure being bad for you, just like they seem to do with every other piece of health advice. (after all, look at all that vitamin d i'm making!) but i don't think they ever will. regardless, no matter how much i try to convince myself, i don't think i'll ever give up a tan. (and even worse, i think luke looks so cute with a tan, too!)
  3. i am not a good housekeeper. another thing left over from my childhood: my messy room has morphed into a disgracefully messy house. and my poor mom tried so hard, too. yes, i'll "make the fake house" (anybody love raymond, other than meredith and me?) for you when you come over, but it'll never really look like that when you're not around. no matter how much i wish, i will never be martha stewart (or my mom, for that matter.) can't do it.
  4. i am not an early riser. it sounds like such a good idea: get up early, before everyone else, have some quiet time, start the day on the right foot. i always start the day on the wrong foot, the wrong side of the bed--no matter how long i've slept. always have. no matter how many times i try (and try and try i have), i will never become a morning person. i'll continue to envy you being one, though.
  5. i am not a healthy eater. i like junk food. enough said. no matter how much i try to convince myself, vegetables just don't taste good.
  6. i am not predictable. back when i was the kind of person who studied literature, i might have described myself as mercurial. which i like the sound of much better than inconsistent or temperamental or moody. i am all over the map. i haven't--i don't think!--always been this way, though. i think i remember being reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. i think i remember being sharp, even, maybe back in those literature-studying days. a good friend, a good employee, a good family member, a good leader--i'm pretty sure someone might have used those words to describe me once upon a time. no matter how hard i try, though, i can't seem to figure out how to get that back. not yet, anyhow. but i'm not giving up.
  7. i am not artistic. man, i'd like to be. i'd like to have an eye for photography, a sense of color, an attention to detail. i'd love to be able to create something--anything--beautiful. i've dabbled in various things, but i just don't have it. i'm afraid i don't even know what it is. no matter how much i try, i'll never be an artist. or an artiste. or whatever.

& just one more: i am not complete. praise God. i am a work in progress. i am created; i am still in the process of being created. and no matter how hard i try, i cannot be the Creator. i am not in charge. and in the rare moments when i'm in my right mind, i am grateful for that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

spolier alert

if you haven't seen the pixar movie UP and you plan to see it, stop reading now, and come back after you've seen it.

seriously, stop.

and if you did see it and really loved it, you might want to stop now, too.

(don't say i didn't warn you.)

here goes (i'm now going to ruin it for you):

as i see it, the summary of the movie goes something like this: people do crazy things in their grief and end up finding out things aren't as they have always seemed. (yeah, it's a children's movie.) like taking off flying in his house, for example, as mr. fredricksen does, propelled by a large bunch of helium balloons (curious george, anyone?). he doesn't land on a lightpost, though; instead, he flies his house to a waterfall in south america, where his dead wife had always dreamed of living. and where he meets his and his wife's lifelong idol, a world-famous explorer, who turns out to be the bad guy, trying to rob the wilderness of a mysterious bird, and, in the process, killing many rivals and attempting to off fredricksen.

disenchanted yet?

not to mention fredricksen's eight-year-old stowaway, russell, whose deadbeat dad he only hopes will show up for his wilderness explorer ceremony and whose mom apparently didn't even notice he was missing. (sure, fredricksen steps in for dear old dad--who actually doesn't show up--but a seventy-eight year-old widower neighbor for a father figure? hardly a happy ending.)

oh, and as for the bad guy, charles muntz, he was once upon a time a legit explorer, but he apparently fabricated a find, lost his reputation, was stripped of his credentials, and vowed never to return from south america until he had proven his innocence by capturing a living version of his mysterious bird. poor guy is still trying seventy-ish years later, now a curmudgeonly old hunter, who--forget the bird for a minute--gets no credit for having invented a collar that allows dogs to talk or for having trained said dogs to serve as not only guards and hunters but chefs, waiters, housekeepers, and pilots, among other things.

disillusionment galore.

yeah, it's a children's movie.

a rave review? hardly. but actually, i'd say the movie has got it right: grieving people (and i do speak with authority on this, though not on much else) do crazy things, things they'd never think of doing in their "right minds"; and grief does make people rethink what they've always known, what they've always trusted.

pretty instructive, for a children's movie. (not to mention that luke loved it--though he spent much of the time covering his ears and/or eyes and saying, "i wish this movie had never been made!"--and raved that it was great as we left the theater. no accounting for taste.)

but don't worry: i won't be staying up all night tying balloons to my roof.

(as for my recommendation: take your kids to see it, but just don't pay too close attention.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

and as for sweetness

it's the kind of blanket you need someone to put on for you.

i was totally comfortable, perfectly so, just the moment i hit the bed. just exactly right for a short afternoon snooze. right square in the middle of my too-big bed. all to myself. no one to bother me. sweet peace and quiet.


the only problem was that the bed was still made. underneath me. and a couple of minutes later, when the air conditioning kicked on, well, it wasn't quite perfect anymore. but if i moved--if i turned over to wriggle under the covers--i'd no longer be so perfectly comfortable, so just exactly right. (you know what i mean?)

what i needed was that blanket. that soft, snuggly, white fuzzy-bunny-tail blanket. across the room on the chaise. the perfect chaise with the perfect blanket holding the place where eliza's crib once was. it's really such a great blanket. (and if you know me, you know my penchant for soft things: yes, insert comparisons to lenny, if you must. you won't be the first.)

all alone in my sweet peace and quiet. sweet.

the thing is, it's the kind of blanket you need someone to put on for you. it's a person-sized blanket, you know? just exactly the right size, but no bigger. the kind that, when you're lying on your stomach, you can't possibly pull over yourself without accidentally leaving a toe hanging out or failing to cover a leg or not quite reaching all the way up to your neck or dislocating your shoulder. so even if it weren't across the room on the chaise (shoot!), i couldn't get under it without ruining the perfect snoozing position.

no one around. so much for sweet peace and quiet and the perfect snoozing setup.

and as i lay there thinking about how useful it would be to have someone else around right now--someone like sam or luke, for example, the very people i'd been so glad to have not ruining my coveted peace and quiet--i was reminded that alone is not it. see, i've been thinking it's all the people around me who are the problem: they are the reason i need to keep up appearances; they make me dread getting up in the morning; they make me crave peace and quiet; they make the days interminable; they are the reason it's not how it should be; they can't make it better; they couldn't possibly understand.

but the thing is, without sam and luke there, i couldn't have my fuzzy-bunny-tail blanket. no softness. no snuggle. not so much the perfect peace and quiet after all.

(you know it's not just about the blanket, right? it really never is.)

alone is not it. when i forget that again tomorrow, when i attempt to hole up and shut out yet another day, someone please remind me. alone is not perfect either.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

what i did today

from old window in my parents' house

to new window into another world

(i think i went there once upon a time)

in context (in the kitchen)

Friday, July 17, 2009

since there's nothing new under the sun

i swear that i do a) have my own thoughts, and b) listen to something other than nickel creek. but these lyrics from "doubting thomas" say it today:

What will be left when I've drawn my last breath
Besides the folks I've met and the folks who've known me?
Will I discover a soul-saving love
Or just the dirt above and below me?

I'm a doubting Thomas.
I took a promise,
But I do not feel safe.
Oh, me of little faith.

Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face.
Then I beg to be spared cause I'm a coward.
If there's a master of death, I bet he's holding his breath
As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power.

I'm a doubting Thomas.
I can't keep my promises
'Cause I don't know what's safe.
Oh, me of little faith.

Can I be used to help others find truth
When I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie?
Can I be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs
That prove I'm not ready to die?

Please give me time to decipher the signs.
Please forgive me for time that I've wasted.

I'm a doubting Thomas.
I'll take your promise.
You've always kept me safe.
Oh, me of little faith.

"Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (mark 9:24)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


new life from ruins (or so they say)

Monday, July 13, 2009

what he said

despite what i just said, i cannot blog from where i am. some things don't belong "out there".

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel his claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be--or so it feels--welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

I tried to put some of these thoughts to C. this afternoon. He reminded me that the same thing seems to have happened to Christ: "Why hast thou forsaken me?" I know. Does that make it easier to understand?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not, "So there's no God after all," but, "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer."
They tell me H. is happy now, they tell me she is at peace. [...] "Because she is in God's hands." But if so, she was in God's hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here. Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body? And if so, why? If God's goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it.
--c.s. lewis, a grief observed

i'm planning to blog my way through this book, by the way. it's all there. really. no need to write anything else of my own.

(and also despite what i said here, a quote from someone else is all i've got. sorry.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

regarding anonymity

i wrote this post about a month and a half ago and couldn't decide whether to post it, which is funny, considering the content. i decided i would.

i had a moment this past week. a moment when i decided to shut this blog down. it had nothing to do with this blog, per se, but with another blog, and actually another, too. you see, somewhere along the way i developed the unusual habit of following blogs of sick people, most frequently sick or dying babies. (this is not a habit i recommend). but it starts with one recommendation--hey, you'd like this blog; this blogger is like you; her kid's like yours--and so i follow her blog. then that blogger mentions another blogger's sick baby; a click, and i'm a faithful follower of hers, too. and one blog leads to another to another to another. it's addictive, at least for me. maybe, at least, you can see how the habit builds.

it's a little like reality tv (which is scary), a little like a virtual support group (perhaps even scarier), a little like an online prayer team (more defensible, perhaps), a little like avoidance of my own life (no comment). and a lot unhealthy, i think, at least for me, at least most of the time. i have enough of my own work of mourning to do, i think, that i don't need to lose sleep crying over other people's sick and dying babies. and as for praying for them, well, i can't say i'm all that faithful to do that. so much for my defense.

back to my moment.

this week, for the second time (and this time much more dramatic than the first a few months ago), one of "my" blogs was revealed to be a scam. one of "my" sick-and-dying babies who was so sick that she died never really existed. it's a long story. but the short of it is that in the process of outing the scammer, several (apparently) good and decent bloggers, mothers themselves of sick-and-dying-and-deceased babies, were dragged through the mud.

i am not linked with any of these "celebrity" bloggers. though i might have been, if i had ever gotten around to sharing a link like so many others do--hey, i'm like you; you'd like my blog; my kid's like yours--and like i've sometimes thought i'd do. that is the way to drive traffic to one's blog, after all. right?

which got me thinking about anonymity. and blogging. and blog traffic and comments and links and who reads this stuff, after all.

it's been a long time since i've been anonymous. if you've followed this blog and perhaps even found your way here from there, you'll understand why. lots and lots of people have walked through the last three and a half years with me and my family, through the last six months with me in my grief. the most obvious (and incredible) result of this opening of my life has been an unreal outpouring of love and support. if you've read that other blog, you've gotten a taste of the tremendous blessing it has been to share my life with so many. and there's so much more beyond what's recorded there, so much more than i'll ever realize, even.

but one thing this journey hasn't been is anonymous. and i confess that there are times when a little anonymity might be okay. true, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name (sing it), but sometimes it's nice when nobody does, too. in my life, that doesn't happen all that often anymore.

since i've continued blogging, you'll understand that i have obviously not chosen anonymity after all. but this week's blog scam and the junk that surfaced along with it got me thinking: why, indeed? why take the risk of sharing? why expose the cracks?

i can't say for sure.

what i can say, though, is that if i don't expose the cracks, i won't have help filling them. isolation works well for a little while...that is, until i want to share a laugh. or a tear. or have a little help filling a crack. or gain a little perspective. or learn something.

i don't know why you read this blog or any other, for that matter. i have no plans to go hunting "traffic", no desire to ever join the ranks of the celebrity bloggers. but i won't shut it down either, i think. i won't pretend the cracks are completely sealed, and i won't hide from the risk of inviting people in.

hear me say this, then (now, again, while i really am saying it, as i not infrequently back away from it): you are welcome here (again), in my story, in my life.

back (and back to blogging soon)

"Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule."
--frederick w. robertson