Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 4 Giveaway

It's really early but I wanted to post something about today's giveaway before leaving for work. The giveaway is still a mystery but I'm sure it will be all of the others so far. Go here at a reasonable hour (in North America) to find out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 3 of the Giveaways

I failed to note Jeanette's lovely Day 2 Giveaway. I'm changing my lazy ways today.

Day 3 @ Busy Hands--Karen is working on a lovely knitted wrap and remembering her son, George. Please go over and tell her about special things people have done to help you as you grieve.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One Down, Twenty-Four to Go...

We've officially entered the Holiday Season and the "25 Days of Giveaways," organized by Tina of "Living without Sophia and Ellie"

You can click on the button right over there ---> for more information.

Tina's kicking things off today with some beautiful jewelry and a discussion about remembering our children during the holidays. Click here to go on over and tell her what's on your mind.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The thing about a good mommickin' is that it's always followed by scavenging. Decks without houses and houses without decks and other parts litter the beach waiting for someone in need . The someones in need gather the parts and, through the sweat of their exhausted yet good-humored brows, wrestle them back into shape.

In the Outer Banks town where I lived for a few years after college, it wasn't unusual to see entire homes composed of storm-washed, found materials—monuments to the durability and versatility of pressure-treated 4 x 4's. These homes (the year-round variety) were squatty and homely, built and re-built for survival rather than for looks.

I spent last weekend in another of my favorite coastal towns with a group of babylost mothers - Angie, Sarah, m, Lani, Tash, Niobe, Julia, Molly, and Laura. It's difficult to wrap my brain around this experience. I met 9 amazing women whom I likely never would have met if my daughter and their children had survived. We ate and knitted and talked and laughed...a lot. The weekend was rejuvenating and transformative but I can't possibly be happy about something like this, can I?

Maybe it's enough to marvel at the terrible beauty of randomness and be thankful that I've washed up on such a welcoming shore.

I remember watching a newscaster bobbing along Bogue Sound in a skiff immediately following Hurricane Ophelia. He gestured to the twisted, malformed houses in the background and spoke of destruction and damage. To me, and anyone else who had lived on the island for any amount of time, the houses looked the same as ever, beautiful in their randomness.

A trailer with a rooftop deck may not look like much to a dit-dotter from off but if you climb on up those rickety stairs you can probably see forever.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Curmudgeon 3 - Home Again

As I mentioned before, my mom is a pessimist. It's a genetic condition, her entire side of the family elevates negativity to a high art. All of the sarcasm and kvetching bugs me. For the most part I'm more of a doer than a talker (and more of a solver than a complainer)--at least that's how I used to be before I started my project.

The last 4 years have taught me that some things just can't be fixed. They can't be fixed by foresight, medical technology, or hard work. They certainly can't be fixed by a positive attitude. Sometimes I wonder if a positive attitude clouds the truth and makes it harder to see the solution. If that's the case, why shouldn't I go negative?

If I just roll around in all of my negative thoughts and let them soak in maybe I can get it all out of the way and feel more like myself again.

No one on my mom's side of the family would ever suggest that I should past this, or move on, or get over it. They'd cheerfully decapitate any outsider who suggested it. They hold strong opinions and epic grudges. They are Titans of 'No Thank You.' I'll grudgingly admit that I admire their fortitude.

Last weekend C and I went to my cousin's birthday party (yup, the one with the revelations about the Osmonds). Watching C run around the yard with her cousins I knew that every single one of my relatives was picturing R trotting along beside her. Most of them probably aimed a criticism at god or fate for taking her away from us.

It was a relief to let someone else carry the water for a few hours.

I guess I'm thanking my family for being un-thankful on my behalf.

So, with the 'Thank You' out of the way, here are three 'No Thank You's'

No Thank You -

A person who is turning the upcoming work Thanksgiving celebration into a spreadsheet-driven nightmare.

The person who thought that I'd want to hear a ten-minute speech about how hard it was for her to say good-bye to her daughter before a 5-week school trip.

The person tailgating me in the 25 mph zone on the way home yesterday. We're all in a hurry but it doesn't mean that we should speed in a residential zone.

Now I'm thinking of all of the things that made me thankful yesterday...I think my experiment isn't gonna take.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curmudgeon 2

So the problem with setting up an experiment is that you have to tend to it. Not sure if it's a lack of time or organization or some combination of the two that's holding me up but I'm going to try to execute.

Gratitude (and its sly cousin ingratitude) are slippery subjects. Now that R is gone and never coming back I feel like I ought to be grateful for every single second I have in this current existence with her sister and the rest of my family. Every plate scraped, bill paid, toilet scrubbed should be a glorious affirmation of my continued survival.

In the early days, my internal dialogue resembled some pathetic version of Pollyanna's famous "Glad Game" - My back is killing me from raking these leaves. But the pain means I'm still alive!

Not surprisingly, I found myself insufferable most days.

Eventually I gave myself permission to gripe about trivial things but I still struggle with achieving a balance.

So, today I'm raising the bar for myself - 2 Thank You's and 2 No Thank You's.

No Thank You -

Demolition contractor, piano mover, and furnace repairman who have all managed to disappear into thin air despite commitments to arrive at various times over the past two weeks. Way to respect the customer, y'all.

To the folks boldly coughing and sneezing into open air on the train. I know that it's hard to get sick leave and this may really be a complaint directed at their employers for forcing them to come to work but, I think everyone can let go of the newspaper long enough to cover a cough. It reminds me of my days in the kindergarten classroom. Maybe I should write a little jingle to help them remember.

Thank You -

To my Aunt J who informed me that my Dad used to refer to Donny Osmond as "No Nuts" Osmond over cake and ice cream at my twelve-year-old cousin's birthday party. (Happy B-day, little cuz).

To the universe for safely delivering healthy baby to these fine people.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Thank You - An Experiment in Curmudgeonhood

There's been a lot of rumblings in blogland about the relative benefits of positive and negative thinking, inspired by the release of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Bright-Sided. I haven't read it yet but I told T to snatch it for me as soon as it arrives at the library (oh, the benefits of being married to a librarian!). In the meantime, I'm going to spout some of my own opinions on the subject. Being ill-informed has never stopped me from clambering up on the soapbox before.

I'm the offspring of an unapologetic pessimist and an unsinkable optimist. As a quick illustrative example, I offer some opinions on organ donation. My mom believes that no one should be an organ donor because doctors let organ donors die. My dad rushed to get his name off of the organ donor list when he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer because he was worried that one of his contaminated parts might accidentally land in an otherwise healthy person. It was sort of like being raised by a suburban version of Dorothy Parker (without the booze) and a manly Bob Cratchit. As you know, only one of them is still alive.

I'm afraid that I lean more toward my Dad's side. I'm not a full Pollyanna but I definitely tend to assume the best about people and situations even when it would be obvious to anyone with a pulse that things are veering off the tracks. A dear friend once called it my 'pioneer spirit.'

But, I am my mother's daughter too and her voice is the one I hear in my head pointing out the various ways that something can go wrong (should Baby A's heart rate be so slow?)--she rarely leads me astray. I'm well aware of the power of pessimism.

In a couple of weeks we'll gather 'round the turkey and give thanks for our blessings. Until then we'll all be bombarded with messages about the holiday spirit and the celebration of plenty as if the economy isn't in the crapper and everything's going well for everyone. The positivity will suck all of the oxygen from the atmosphere and make things unbearable for folks who are struggling.

This year, I'm turning over a new leaf...ok, I'm not inverting it completely...more like flipping up one corner so I can see the dark underneath. I'm going to mix things up by saying an occasional, "no thank you." Turkeys be damned.

I'll start slow with minor issues. I'll also have to use my old teaching trick of cleansing negativity with 3 positive thoughts of equal scale. I present today's "Thank You. No Thank You." (not necessarily in that order).

No Thank You -

SEPTA, for purchasing high-tech parking meters that only accept coins and must be paid with exact change. Dear parking meter, you are shiny and beautiful and have many fancy buttons. Therefore, when you tell me that I can't have my extra nickel, it makes me want to plunge my knitting needles into your cold, mechanical heart. I swear it's like being transported back to the dark ages. GAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Thank You -

Prep School students for enlivening my AM commute with your silly games of grab-ass. Gangly teenage boys with their oversized feet and shorn-sheep haircuts always make me nostalgic for my retreating youth.

John McArthur, Jr., the madman who designed Philadelphia's City Hall. So baroque! So many tacky allegorical statues symbolizing justice! So delightfully decrepit! It's the perfect tribute to the dour Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, William Penn.

WXPN for playing "Let's Go Crazy" during my drive home from the train station. I know that it's not the right song but it reminded me of the closing scene of "Purple Rain" where Prince is scooting around the stage shaking his tiny, little money-maker at incredible speeds. Ah, Prince. Ah, money-makers.

But I still don't forgive you, parking meter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not a Blogger

Last week I had intended to change direction a bit. I was going to write about the Phillies and my dad and relate it all back to the struggle of terminal illness and the importance of universal health care. It was supposed to be a happy story to balance out all of the woe-is-me.

Unfortunately the Phils lost and the House chickened out on a viable public option allowing the air to escape from my post with a pronounced pffft as it zipped out of the room.

Then my jerry-rigged facade of alrightness fell over during a meeting at work and exposed my pet elephant and his ever-growing pile of shit that I've been meaning to take care of but can't seem to find the time.

Sometimes 'forever' just seems completely unmanageable.

Note to Self: When you get upset at work, cover your face with your coffee cup before your chin starts to quiver and keep it there all day if necessary.


Philosophers will tell you that there's no such thing as 'nothing.' The very act of thinking about nothing gives it a certain somethingness that can't be ignored—nothing is as real as a ham sandwich.

Science gives a similar answer. Even though it may seem that everything is mostly nothing dotted with tiny clumps of stuff, the empty space between the bits of matter behaves in a way that must be categorized as something.


When R died, a little space opened up in my heart. Comfort and concern slid right through the hole with no resistance or reaction. I couldn't find a name for it and it wasn't like anything I had encountered before.

It felt like nothing.

Over time it just became part of me. All of my remaining something rearranged itself and the nothing spread out and made itself at home. The whistling hole was gone but I was somewhat less substantial.

People who had all of their something intact could pass right through me. Only those with a little bit of their own nothing felt solid.

I never really intended to start a blog (or even read one to be absolutely honest). Prior to April of 2009 I was a newspaper reading, dog-walking, knitting Luddite with a neglected FB account. Then dozens of friends and co-workers completed uncomplicated pregnancies and birthed healthy babies in spring of 2009 and I took to the internet in search of anything that could make me feel human again.

One thing led to another and now I'm a Luddite with a poorly maintained, ineffectively semi-anonymous set of grammatically flawed ruminations that I started writing just to seem less like a rubber-necking weirdo when I read other peoples' blogs.

There's not a whole lot of candor and variety here. My husband calls my style 'charmingly old-fashioned.' I describe it as 'Johnny One-Note.' I don't aspire to become a real blogger with a catalog of interesting stories that cover all aspects of my life (though I do appreciate reading real blogs). I just want a little bit of space to try to turn my nothing into something.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Daily Grind

By day I'm a professional haranguer. It's not something I ever aspired to or trained for—it just flowed naturally from a series of non-decisions about my career. I spend my days sending notes, leaving voicemails, and hunting people down for the express purpose of needling them into doing things that they have deemed unimportant.

One of last week's glamorous tasks involved proofreading a report for adherence to style guidelines. Specifically, I had to bring down the hammer regarding the appropriate way to denote fiscal years in official documents. (I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat so I'll satisfy your curiosity. There must be a space between the FY and the 2010 and that it must be 2010 and not just 10. Oh, and it should be FY 2009 – FY 2010...not FY 2009-FY 2010, etc.)

I get a lot of eye-rolling. My colleagues/targets frequently remind me about priorities and relative importance.

They assume that I don't understand what really matters.

The feeling is sometimes mutual.

Most days I'm stunned that I'm still here, hunkered down in my cube inching the boulder up the hill, the keeper of both the great truths of the universe and the only three-hole punch in the office. You can imagine which gets more overt attention.

I'm glad to have a job, especially one that's 95% satisfying. I can even appreciate the simple beauty of a menial office task...staplers are truly amazing. It's the assumption that my work persona constitutes my entire being that stings my poor battered soul.

In my mind I'm shouting as my body shrugs.

Of course I don't give a crap about whether there's a space between the 'FY' and the '2010.' One of my daughters died and will never walk, run, graduate, get married, feel the sun on her face or hit the space bar at the right time. I should be home teaching my precious surviving daughter how to count to 2,010 instead of standing here listening to you gripe to me about the indignity of meaningless work.


Last Wednesday I received an outstanding on my annual performance review. My Dad's 62nd birthday passed uncelebrated, C learned how to say, “Go away, Mommy,” in context-appropriate situations, and R...well, you know how that goes.

On Friday afternoon I received an invitation to complete a survey for high-performers about motivation. I reviewed the questions (with a straight face) and determined that I could channel my former self well enough to answer them somewhat truthfully.

And then the demographics section asked how many children I have and I was stumped.

It's totally anonymous.

What should I say?