Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My New Gig

As a full-time working mother, I could put in 40 hours, cook semi-regular meals, commute an average of two hours a day, talk to friends regularly, exercise every morning, and have a relatively OCD-like immaculate house (not including the Tween's room).  

As a corporate cast-off who is now home 24/7, I can boast of serving dinner more often but that's about it.  My living room looks like a Lego factory exploded.  The family room has a cardboard box-turned-hideout sitting in the center of it -- completed with debris generated by the Tween still littered around it.  My Pinterest boards are exploding with brilliant ideas for "someday."  I haven't talked to most of my friends since exchanging the drive on the parkway for the walk to the laptop.  The 5:30 AM exercise routine shifted to 8 AM... 11 AM... 1 PM... tomorrow, I promise.  

When I heard that unemployment was looming back in December 2012, I began to make plans with the Husband and prepare the Tween.  Since we'd already put our plan to "recession-proof" ourselves in motion two years ago when the Husband was hired after his second lay off, we were in good shape.  We paid off a few credit cards, I began couponing with sincerity, and every expense was analyzed.  My project manager, AB, came through with a long-term writing gig, and with the support of my guys, I was able to jump on it.  Between that and adjuncting, life is pretty good.

I would like to say that I shall spend free my time blogging something brilliant about being a Gen-X mom raising a member of the iGeneration.  I'd love to tell stories about the life of a 40+ mom who can say "been there, done that, bought the t-shirt" as she deals with a tween on the cusp of turning into a hormone with feet.
My life with the Tween generally consists of the following themes:
* Clean up your room before it's declared a bio-hazard.
* You do not need to throw those jeans in the laundry.  You only wore them for an hour.
* The dishwasher is not going to unload itself.  (Alternate theme: The cat does not have oposable thumbs to operate a can opener and feed herself. She's counting on you to keep her from starving.)
* What do you mean you're still hungry?  You've been eating for the last hour.

I promised myself that, as part of my daily writing regimen, I would begin to blog once more.  How this whole stay-at-home/work-from-home is going to pan out is beyond me.  But isn't that how most adventures begin?


Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Nightmares promise an ending.  When you wake, you have only the remnants.  Nothing more.  Nightmares cannot hurt you in the light of day.  While horrible, nightmares are brief, lasting only as long as you sleep.

People suggest that I'm living one.  I have a husband with an inexplicable heart condition that, to date, has merited so many visits to the hospital that we now know the weekly menu by heart.  The experience sounds like a perversion of a Christmas carol: four hospital stays, three surgeries, two ER visits, and one un-healing heart...

Not particularly lyrical, but true nonetheless.

I wish it was a nightmare, readers.  Because then it would have an ending.  I could wake up and I would have my husband in bed next to me tomorrow morning.  I could wake up, too, and know that he would wake up able to cut the lawn in one afternoon, that he would be able to take steps without getting too winded, and that I would never have to tell Gavin that daddy was "having a bad day" again.

As it stands, we have what I am optimistically calling a "permanent lifestyle change." And, if the truth must be told, it doesn't seem particularly nightmarish.

Don't mistake me here.  It's terrifying.  I hate talking about where he keeps important paperwork and watching him write out bills ahead of time.  All of these things are "just in case."  But, the truth is, that Erik's condition is not terminal.  And, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Longtime readers, as well as those who knew me when, know that I watched my father die and that it took twenty-odd months for the cancer to do its job.  I know enough about "terminal," thank you.  Knowing that my husband isn't terminal is, well, wonderful.

We try to laugh as much as we can.  We eat dinner as a family as much as humanly possible, given our schedules.  This past Saturday we had our family portrait taken.  Last weekend we went to Phipps.

He isn't terminal, but that doesn't mean that we continue as usual.

This blog isn't about how we are rediscovering life.  That would be trite and cliched.  This blog is what I'm writing as I eat ice cream from the container and as I drink a glass of homemade white zinfandel.  As I wonder if I'll be able to sleep tonight.  This blog is a culmination of today, of sitting in the hospital while the husband had his pretests and had his medication changed, of sitting in three different waiting areas over the duration of six hours, of trying not to think about my son crying last night because he "had a headache."

When you sit in the hospital and wait, even when you know that it's just routine tests, you think about everything that could go wrong.  In-between, you get calls from the car dealership, letting you know that the car's oil has been changed.  Unbidden, though, comes the thought that you'll probably keep the minivan and sell the sedan because you'll only need one car.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


It's 12:24 a.m.
I burned my finger on a hot coffee mug.
The television is on.

Yesterday  Erik and I marked twenty years since the day we met. Twenty years ago, it was a Saturday night, there was a tremendous snow storm, and Seton Hill was hosting a "House Quake II" party in Sullivan Lounge.

As a bright-eyed frosh, I went. Dragging my roommate with me. I wore black stirrup pants and a beaded flowered shirt.

And I met him.

He was the tall, quiet guy that I had been stealing glances at ever since we returned from Christmas break. Just as my roommate and I were ready to leave, he walked in. After covertly watching him stand off to the side for a while, taking things in, I walked up to him.

"Are you going to stand there all night or dance with me?"
I swear to God, those were the words that came out of my mouth.

Twenty years later, we laugh at how bold I was.

And now, tonight, I sit here. Alone. My burned finger smarts. The television is still on.

And my best friend of twenty years is in the hospital with an atrial flutter that was discovered during a routine physical today. They're monitoring him tonight and testing for clots tomorrow. We're hearing worrisome words, but none particularly devastating right now. The head of the cardiology department himself came in to meet with us.

Right now, we're hoping he'll come home tomorrow. Tonight, I'm home. Gav is with my mom, having a sleepover. It only makes sense that, at some point, this would happen. Everyone gets older, everyone's health changes. But, as cliched as it sounds, doesn't this happen to other people and isn't he too young? No, don't answer that.

I keep staring at the wedding portrait over the fireplace, as well as at the family portrait that hangs to its left.

My finger hurts. The television is still on.

It's 12:51 a.m.

Friday, October 21, 2011


We lost our cat Winnie, aka Fuzz, this past Monday. After nearly sixteen years, our little hairball succumbed to old age and went peacefully to wherever beloved pets go. Heaven, I suppose. She deserves it after eight years of Gavin. If never fighting back despite having pacifiers and bottles jammed in her mouth, being chased with a kid wielding a kid-sized shovel, and running for her life when he had a bottle of hand lotion doesn't merit a reward, I'm not sure what can.

About three weeks ago, we noticed that she was barely eating and was becoming skin and bones. A two weeks she stopped using the steps. The last two days were spent in increasing confusion, and if she wasn't laying down, she was wandering as best she could as if she wasn't sure where she was.

Gav was wonderful with her, carrying her to her litter box and water bowl during her last days, speaking gently to her, and making sure she had her cat toys by her when she was sleeping. On Monday morning, when we left for school and work, he told me he was worried that she would die -- but he was more worried that she would be in pain while she died.

We can only hope she wasn't. When we got home that night, she was gone. She laid down and died. It looked like she was sleeping. Gav cried a little, as did I, and I held him while we looked at her body and while I wondered what to do next. Surely he would be too broken up to do more than cry.

How wrong I was.

Gav knelt next to her and picked her up. "I want to hold her," he said simply, taking her onto his lap and petting her one last time.

When we wrapped her in a small blanket, he helped. And, as we prepared to bury her, he insisted on putting her little wrapped body in the plastic bag. When we took her out to bury her (not on our property), he took the laundry basket that we put her in and carried it to the car. He helped dig her grave.

Not once did I see him shrink from the tasks he set for himself. He did what he had to do. But this was a had to do that he set for himself. He decided to see Winnie's burial through to the end. Gavin himself decided.

Once before I wrote about how I know that Gav is his own person, and that I am only allowed to borrow him for a while. Watching him lay Winnie's box in the grave and then take the shovel from his father so that he could bury her himself... I can only say I was humbled by his strength. My gentle little son, who fretted that morning not about her death so much as her being alone and in pain when she did pass away, knew what he needed to do to heal himself and face the loss. As he shoveled the dirt back into the grave, I swear that I caught a glimpse of the man he will grow into.

Like any parent, I worry about how life will treat my child. I worry about disappointments and successes. I worry about bullies and broken hearts. I dread the day when a mother's hug can't solve everything. As I tucked him into bed that night, I told Gav how proud I was of the way he helped us take care of Fuzz and helped us bury her. And he looked at me, a bit confused by the idea. "I was worried how you would react," I explained. "I was worried that you would scream and cry and run away." After all, previous to this, he'd buried only hermit crabs and an occasional goldfish.

And he looked at me, again a bit confused. "Why would I do that?"
The thought of not being a part of her burial, I realized, had never crossed his mind.

As I gave him one more hug good night, I kissed the top of his head and managed not to cry. Life won't be easy for him, it never is for any of us, but I'm a little more okay with that now. He'll be able to handle it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Haven't forgotten.

For several years now I have managed to dodge talk about September 11 with Gavin. For the last three school years, in fact, I've held my breath hoping that nothing would be said in front of him that would cause me to have to explain it in any way, shape, or form.

That changed May 2 with the death of Osama Bin Laden. Between the screaming headlines and the news media broadcasting alternating clips of celebrating Americans and raw footage from the compound, there wasn't much dodging possible.

"He looks like one of the thuggies in my Lego Indiana Jones, mom," he announced, looking at the front page of the Tribune-Review.

"I suppose he does," I said.

"Why did we kill him?"

"He's a bad guy," I replied, hoping that he would change the subject.

"What did he do?"

My throat tightened and I couldn't think of what to say to an eight-year-old to explain any of it. He convinced men to hijack four airplanes full of innocent people and slam them into buildings full of even more innocent people all in the name of his personal, twisted version of a jihad. He aimed at symbolic locations in effort to twist the knife as deeply as possible. He and his followers supposedly cheered when the towers fell.

"He had people steal airplanes and fly them into buildings."

Please stop asking questions, honey. I can't answer any more without wanting to cry because I remember it and I don't want you to know what I know about how horrible men can be when they...

"He looks like one of those thuggies on the Wii game."

Wii! Maybe he'll change the subject.

"How did he kill all those people?"

Oh God.

"There were people in the buildings that the planes hit."

Please stop, Gavin. Don't ask me about the airplanes and if there were people on them. Don't connect the fact that we're flying when we go on vacation this year.

"Oh. I thought maybe he had a big sword like the thuggies."

In truth, Osama's death made September 11, 2011, a bit easier. Not much, but a bit.

We had "the September 11th talk" this past weekend. We watched a few televised specials together. We talked a little bit about what happened that day. His questions were basic, factual, and easy enough to answer. After watching the videos of the planes hitting the towers, Gavin was more interested in how the towers fell than anything. He was fascinated by the physics of it all, which was obvious as he talked about how the towers would fall when hit at different levels and how he thought they would fall more like dominoes.

They covered September 11th in class, and it was done well. Sterile. Basic. Non-emotionally scarring. Ten years after, it's easier to talk about -- particularly when the students weren't even alive at the time. Past history, things that happened before one was born, is much more elusive. Too abstract. Nine-eleven to Gavin is Pearl Harbor to me. We didn't live it, but we know we should be sad about it.

There's not much to say, ten years later. I still cry, or want to cry, when I talk about that day. I still remember the first words I heard as I tuned the radio in. I still don't understand a damn thing. I still don't know how to explain hatred to an eight-year-old.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I'm not very good at talking about myself in terms of accomplishments. I'm quite happy to let my actions speak for themselves and leave it at that. However, this time, it's all about me and the last three years.

From the moment I started at RMU, my life became papers, papers, and more papers. I wasn't allowed to have an opinion because, as we first-year students were told, we didn't know enough to have that right. I was to read and to write.

As you can see by the picture, by year three, papers ruled my life. I was even allowed to have an opinion. In fact, as of last Tuesday, I'm also allowed to be an expert.

You see, as of April 26, 2011, after 90 very long minutes of defense and deliberation, I earned the title of "Doctor of Science."

So what do I know? I know a lot. For the last two years, I've been studying the personas of typefaces used in e-mail and their influence on us, which is a fancy way of saying that I studied the fonts we use in our e-mails and how we emotionally react to them. I found out, in fact, that I was right -- we do react to typefaces in e-mails AND we use the typeface to determine the personality of the person sending the e-mail.

If I try, I can count the number of papers and presentations that I somehow managed to pull off over the last three years... but I'm really not up to it. Let's just say that I did enough to make an assignment of "8-10 pages, double-spaced" sound like a really good deal. And should I ever hear "PowerPoint presentation, no more than 20 minutes," I'll jump for joy at getting off so easy.

You see, despite my cavalier approach to education up until... oh... now, I am an over-achiever, academic Type-A personality. And so were my classmates. By year two, several professors had learned to give us maximum page counts, not minimum.

The hardest part of graduation (Friday!!!) will be leaving my friends. All of the sentimentality I never had before has been threatening to drown me since August. For three years now, Matt and Janusz and I spent just about all of our residency nights in the Iron City Grille.

With the free drink coupons, why go anywhere else?

We would drink just enough to have fun and not enough to have a headache the next morning.

What do doctoral students talk about? Everything. From Appalachian ways of life to rhetoric, from data warehousing to the brilliance of Phineas and Ferb. When were weren't being academic, we were catching up on slang in the Urban Dictionary and trying to figure out how to maximize our drink coupons. We never topped the day that Matt used our excess of 24 tickets to "buy" as case and bring it to class the next day. It apparently helped strengthen our class's reputation of being "difficult."

We didn't actually drink in class. We just gave a bottle to everyone to take home. In class we were too busy to drink. More than likely we were playing Tetris or Risk, instant messaging, posting Facebook editorials, or taking copious notes. I don't think we were difficult in the least. We were talkative and opinionated, that's all. Really, the only difficult thing about us was our (in)ability to count.

Why drink coupons, you ask? Why would a university give its students license to indulge? Take a look at the board to your left and imagine that for eight days straight for roughly eight hours a day.

If memory serves me correctly, that's from Dr. Grant's rhetoric class year one. I like the question he wrote on the board: "What's in your world?"

How does one even begin to answer that question? What's in my world? My world now is a new title, one earned with more effort than I knew possible. My world has been shaped by professors like Dr. Skovira, the mountain man who will threaten you with a two-by-four (though we don't have a picture of that) and who tells you to "write the sh*t down" because you never know what will be important later.

For Skovira, I wrote a paper on a math class at Seton Hill and -- because I wrote it all down -- discovered that the students in that class, in response to the 1970s paddle desks their classroom had, developed their own set of social behaviors to negotiate the limited personal space. Now I spend too much time watching others' behaviors. What's in my world? Where you put your coffee cup, believe it or not.

Our profs generally didn't put up with much, believe it or not. One or two were not against closing our laptops for us during class if we were unable to do so ourselves. But, when they weren't making us write and rewrite and defend out opinions, just about all of them knew how to have fun.

What's in my world? Dr. Stork. A prof who can not only shred chapters 3 through 5 in a single night, but will also send you corrections at 1 a.m. and sit with you for hours until you almost understand statistics. And who will karaoke with you.

When I tried to write my dissertation so that it was interesting, my committee showed me how to write it academically (trust me, interesting and academic are rarely the same). But without their taking their electronic red pens to my dissertation over and over (and over and over) again, and without Jay, my advisor, talking me down from the proverbial ledge during the last few weeks prior to my defense, I never would have finished and would have run off to live as an ABD (or so I threatened). When I sent my committee umpteen versions and twice as many questions, they answered. Patiently. Quickly.

What's in my world? At this point? Given the connections I've made, the knowledge I've gained, and the articles I've already published... well, everything is in my world. Everything.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


You think that you're able to handle anything -- or at least most of it -- and then the phone rings at 7 a.m. and you have to wake your husband up and tell him to go to the hospital because his mother, who just had surgery a few weeks ago, is suddenly hemorrhaging and they want the family there at once. And you have to get in touch with his siblings. And you have to call your mother to come and pick up your son.

And the phone rings again. You have to go to your mother-in-law's house to make sure that the door, which her brother kicked in when she didn't answer the door, at least looks like it's closed.

No, wait. Your husband is coming home to get you and the two of you will drive to Shadyside Hospital where she is being lifeflighted.

You can handle that, so far. This is old hat, really. You did this when Dad was sick. Besides, your mom has your son and he knows nothing except that he's going to spend the day with his cousin before going to a friend's birthday party that night.

So you drive to Shadyside while your husband sits beside you and tries not to cry, and you find the right waiting room, and you say all the right things to the family that's already gathered there. Her children, her brother and sister-in-law, her two sisters, her niece, and two friends of her daughters. You marvel at how close everyone is and, yes, even envy a little, too. How lucky she is to have them.

When the doctor tells the family that she's unable to clot and that he can't stop the bleeding yet, you stay calm because no one needs you falling apart.

And you sit. For nearly twelve hours in the dimly lit waiting room, and you go over how glad you are that they got to her in time, how glad you are that her hemoglobin is coming up -- from 4 to 7.5. You count blessings, like the fact that she was able to call for help and the fact that your son wasn't with her when it all started. You tell yourself a lot of truths.

You tell yourself a lot of lies, too. Big ones. Whoppers about how she's going to be okay. You think about her birthday in two months and wonder if you can talk her kids into buying her a new living room carpet. Somehow you almost convince yourself that she'll pull through, even though it's 7 p.m. and the doctor himself is on the verge of crying because he can't do anything more than slow the bleeding.

Even at 11:30 p.m. when you stand there and hear the doctor tell her children that nothing more can be done, you manage to keep it together. And so with the family's permission, he stops giving her fluids and, within minutes, she's gone.

You cry a little, holding your husband who is sobbing as is any son's right, but you can't really let go yet.

At home, some more tears. Just a few. Both of you are too worn out to do much more than that. Tomorrow you'll tell your son when your mother brings him home.

But the next morning you find a picture of her holding your son, a candid one someone took at his fourth birthday party, and they're looking at each other and you know that look.

And then you cry.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Story

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse... the children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced through their heads...

Yeah. Right.

'Twas the night before Christmas and in the Louch house, Captain Chaos was stirring and much louder than a mouse... the child was not snuggled all warm in his bed, though visions of Legos were dancing in his head...

Preparing for Santa's visit tonight took some serious effort -- the sort that only a seven-year-old can swing.

"I cleared a space on the table for milk and cookies on the round table. Do you have the cookie plate? Can I leave him a chocolate bar? I'll unwrap it for him. I'm the first kid to leave him a candy bar. Should I put his name on it so he knows it's for him? How many cookies should we leave him?

"Can I leave my ferris wheel on for him to see? I bet he'll leave a note because it's so neat. Will he step on my Legos? Should we move them? I'll pour the milk for him. Here, Mom, put the cookies here. Is two enough? Should we put some of the chocolate chip out too? And we need a carrot for each reindeer! Do we have eight carrots? Rudolph doesn't need one because everyone leaves him one. I'll move my Legos so Santa doesn't step on them. Fuzz won't eat the cookies, will she? She doesn't eat chocolate.

"Hey, mom, does Santa make all the toys?"


"Does Santa make all of the toys. You know, like Hex Bugs and electronics and stuff?"

"No. He hires out to companies in China and Japan and Taiwan. It's called division of labor. They help him out with the electronics."

"Oh. Okay."

At this point, however, my husband the chimed in to correct me. "It's outsourcing."

"What's that, dad?"

I shot the big guy an amused look. Show off! Thought you were so smart. Now you're doomed. You got yourself into this, you get yourself out of this.

For the next ten minutes, my child grilled his dad on "outsourcing" and why Santa used those companies and not his elves and how he picked those particular companies and why just electronics and if the people who made the electronics got to visit the North Pole. The husband had to do some fancy footwork to make it all make total sense in terms of Christmas magic, in terms of the North Pole, and in terms of a seven-year-old's absolute belief in jolly old St. Nick.

Finally, his interrogation wrapped up, Chaos looked at his dad and made one final announcement. "I know Santa makes the stuffed animals himself because that's just sewing."

I looked at the husband as I answered for both of us. "Absolutely."

This time, the big guy opted to leave it at that.

Merry Chrismas Eve

For the first time since, my focus has been more on the holiday itself than on losing Dad five years ago. Perhaps this blog negates that statement, though. As I have for the previous four years, I tracked the day's events against those in 2005. Bring woken by my mom, getting ready, waiting for the hospice nurses to come, waiting for the funeral home to pick up the body... but for the first time, I'm not avoiding acknowledgement or feeling my usual Scrooge-like sentiment about "stupid holidays."

Instead, the iPod is playing a very wide variety of Christmas tunes, I made a few cookie trays, and I am even getting antsy about tomorrow morning. Sometimes I even sing along with the music.

I downloaded some new Christmas songs onto the iPod. Saucy, satiric ones that tickle my fancy. Osama got run over by a reindeer, for one. The Twelve Days of Christmas, as sung by Doug and Bob McKenzie. And then there is the less-than-conventional. I could have bought little Jackie Evancho's rendition of O Holy Night. But I opted for Weezer's version.

My guys are in the family room building a K'nex ferris wheel that my mom just gave Gav this afternoon. Well, the big guy is building. Gav is just watching and announcing that he's the supervisor.

I'm blogging while boiling the cavatelli. It's a peaceful holiday so far, which bodes well. So far the only "disaster" was the garbage disposal dying this morning. Not a big deal in the least.

A few times today I did think about that day. But five years gives one time to heal and, finally, I guess, things are a little less raw. And, you know what, though I often say it sarcastically, I do believe it -- Christmas comes regardless of us. Prepared or not, interested or not, fully decorated or not, it comes. The calender doesn't really care how you feel or what you think. So, honestly, may as well enjoy it.

I plan to. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chef Chaos

On my dresser is a small crystal bowl with a 15-watt light bulb in it.

I've kept it because I don't know why. I just have.

This past spring, I woke to smell of something burning. It was a thick, heavy smell and was coming from the hallway. Strike that. It was coming from Gavin's room. The realization immediately sent me into a panic. Not only was something burning, but it was IN MY SON'S ROOM.

So I woke the husband and we methodically searched the room, feeling walls for heat, checking outlets. We questioned Gavin endlessly, were you playing with matches, did you smell anything last night, did you jam something into the outlets? By the time Aunt Na arrived to get Gavin off to school, I had the husband in the attic checking the wiring by the ceiling fan in Gav's room.

The smell, however, kept getting stronger and stronger, but nothing -- and I mean nothing -- was burning. Nothing that we could find, anyway.

Then Aunt Na thought to check Gav's bedside lamp, the one he kept on during the night. There it was. The 15-watt bulb, burning sure and bright. Good quality those GE bulbs.

For Christmas, Gavin received an Easy Bake Oven and he learned that you could actually cook using a 100-watt bulb.

I bet you know where this is going, don't you?

Yep. Using his understanding of the Easy Bake, Gav decided to see if he could melt a foam sticker. On his light bulb.

So there's a 15-watt bulb on my dresser. Covered in melted foam. I'm still not sure what to do with it. All I know is that it makes me laugh every time I see it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Perhaps, if this makes you uncomfortable, you can blame the two glasses of wine. They made the words easier for me.

I've my iPod plugged in and am enjoying some golden oldies. The Skyliners are singing right now, but all I can think of is how Janet Vogel decided to turn start her car one day and leave the garage door closed. They lived just up the street from us, her youngest son is just a year older than me.

Morbid, no doubt. I'm good for that. My mind invariably goes to the process of dying, of what it's like to know your life is ebbing away. I think, too, of how I told my girl friend not to envy me the time had with my father. When Dad was first diagnosed, we were thankful for the time given. By the time he died, it was a curse. We didn't need that much time. We didn't want that much time. No one does. Twenty-odd months are too expensive, too high a price to pay for the chance to say good-bye.

We had time, in those long months, not to talk about the old days and say what needed said. We had time instead to smell death and hear its rattle. In the last month, I couldn't bear to walk into the same room, though I did, holding my breath, because he was already a corpse. But he just happened to be breathing. If that's what you wanted to call the gasp and hiss of air passing in and out of his lungs.

When you sit in the same room with the dying, it's a peaceful hell. There's a simplicity of the moment, for your task is just to be there. Helpless, but there nonetheless. I read, I wrote, sometimes I napped. At regular intervals, my mother or I would put on rubber gloves and rub morphine into the soft skin of his inner arm. We like to think it helped. And, though we each privately thought of it, we were never brave enough to give him more than the prescribed amount at the prescribed time.

The smell of dying goes away after you're in the same room for a few minutes. Olfactory fatigue, it's called. Your nose gets used to it and you begin to ignore it. So by the end of the chapter of the book you think you're reading, you can no longer scent the dying man.

You can still hear him, though. There's no fatigue of the ear strong enough to block out the inhaling gasp and the exhaling hiss, because, in the back of your mind, you're wondering if that gasp will be the last one you hear.


There's a box on my dresser. An antique copper box, probably a good 60 or 70 years old. In it are obituaries from the last 50 years. The fallen leaves from our family tree. My mother gave it to me some time ago. Her "Box o' Death," I jokingly called it. It's mine now, and my job is to keep the family obits in there. Someday, I suppose, it will be handed down to Gavin.

But that's a blog for another day.

Must I be so melancholy at the holidays? Yes. No. Perhaps. This Thanksgiving marked six years for my grandfather's death. This Christmas will mark five for Dad. As I said once before, any holiday without a trip to the funeral parlor or hospital is a good holiday.

It was a good holiday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Daydreaming vs. reality

So we've started second grade. Amazing. Wasn't it yesterday that I was prying him out of the car to go to preschool? Putting stickers on a chart for each day he didn't cry? And yet here we are, moving further and further away from all those "baby" things.

He doesn't hold my hand in public, clinging as if for life itself. Instead he ventures a few feet away, puffed up with his independence and swaggering just a little bit.

At restaurants, he orders for himself, his voice quiet but sure.

At home we argue sometimes. Two very similar personalities trying to get the final word. Because I said so just doesn't seem to work like it used to. He prefers explanations.

My mother says he's another me, whatwith his stubbornness and imagination. I'm okay with that. You need imagination. Without it, what is life but dry facts and numbing repetition?

But never let it be said that life is without bumps. Gav's challenge this year is his imagination. Apparently it's working overtime -- particularly at school. Seems that his mind wanders a bit too much and his teacher needs to constantly remind him to stay on task. We received our first note of the school year. His teacher wants to know how to help him focus during class.

The problem is that I haven't an answer for her.

I spent the vast majority of my elementary education in my own little world, emerging just often enough to do my schoolwork and look like I was paying attention. I didn't struggle academically, which made it all the easier to attend school in body much more than in mind. There seems little point to a lot of the work we did, and I was often corrected doing things my own way (in spite of their being correct). Gav's pretty much the same way. He claims boredom -- and given that he's getting straight-A's -- I believe him.

Actually, I do have an answer for her.

Challenge him. Teach him something that interests him. Teach him something that, to him, has meaning.

Ah, but there's the problem. She can't cater to my son at the cost of his peers. I'm not unreasonable enough to demand it, either. Truthfully, I really don't see his daydreaming as a "problem," except for the fact that he needs to time it a little better and play by the mundane rules of life once in a while. Gav already knows that we expect him to remain focused on his work until it's done (and done correctly). Then, we said, he can let his mind wander to his heart's content.

A parent-teacher phone call is scheduled for tomorrow to discuss this situation. By the tone of her note, his teacher sounds like she values imagination in children, so I'm hopeful that things will go well.

Of course, no matter what, this sure as heck beats another four-boy kicking contest...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Talks to Strangers (probably runs with scissors, too)

I talk to strangers. A lot.

Thanks to that trait, I've closed a bar with a Russian history professor (as in from Russia), explored the Muhammad Ali Museum with a former Pittsburgh Steeler, experienced homemade Czechoslovakian food in Omaha, and danced the night away outside the Seelbach Hotel at Louisville's Fourth Street Live.

The older I get, the more adventurous I get.

Just two short weeks ago, I packed a bikini, sunscreen, my fountain pen, and a few steno pads and headed down to Destin, FL, for "Operation Girls Gone Writing." Carol and Heidi went with me. We met in person once. Two years ago. For just a few short hours in Indianapolis, IN, when I was there for an economics conference. The rest of the time has been spent "meeting" via e-mail and conference calls, as I've worked with and for both of them on numerous writing projects over the past three years.

Imagine if I hadn't talked to these strangers?

We wouldn't have lounged by the pool and talked about all those things women talk about: food, sex, and diets. We wouldn't have seen dolphins in the bay. We'd have missed the piano bar, the too-friendly old guy, and the taste of rum. We never would have known the sands of Destin, still free from oil at that point, and learned that swimming in algae is something like swimming in hair.

Who would have bought too much candy, too many presents for our boys back home, and too much rum?

I have a blog in the works to sum up the weekend. I'm still pondering what to say exactly, but it's on its way.

All I know is that I'm glad I talked to these strangers and can't wait to do it again.

Twitter Trip

I don't have a Twitter account anymore, but if I did, my Girls Gone Writing weekend in Destin, FL, would read like this:

5:30 a.m. --> @ airport, no line for security -- nice change!
8:31 a.m. --> boring flight, played solitaire, lost a lot
9:46 a.m. --> met Bobs @ ATL waiting for tram; Atl Bread Co out of bagels
ate choc chip cookies, Liv still in Indy, plane needs part, missed ATL flight w/ us :(
2: 45 p.m. --> @ hotel, @ pool w/ Bobs, Liv's phone off
3:20 p.m. --> Liv calls, drops f-bomb, 2nd time 2day; taxi $55 = 3rd bomb
6 p.m. --> dinner @ Village, seafood & rum
7:31 p.m. --> refuse to ride zipline due to wearing a dress, buy a daquari instead
8:27 p.m. --> karaoke bar overrun w/ kids, don't go in
8:30 p.m. --> @ piano bar, more rum, sing-a-long to Sweet Caroline

8 a.m --> big breakfast, Village for towels, then beach!
8:20 a.m. --> $30 beach towel? wtf?!
10:34 a.m. --> saw dolphins!!!!!!
10:55 a.m. --> shopping for dinner dresses "just because"
11:45 a.m. --> no luck w/ dresses, will eat dinner anyway
11:51 a.m. --> candy store = lunch
1:30 p.m. --> @ beach, no oil, just algie in water, like swimming in hair
2:05 p.m. --> took lots of pics, hope I look ok
4:50 p.m. --> leave beach via resort bus
5 p.m. --> bus driver confused, return to beach
5:05 p.m. --> circle parking lot while driver gets bearings
5:10 p.m. --> leave beach parking lot
6 p.m. --> return to hotel alive
7:30 p.m. --> board bus, new & better driver, off to Village for dinner
9:03 p.m. --> off to dance after delicious dinner... too smokey & expensive, return to piano bar
10:14 p.m. --> fifth bachlorette party @ bar, may hurt someone if have to sing "going to the chapel" again
10:19 p.m. --> leave piano bar in interest of sanity

8 a.m. --> breakfast, souvineer shopping
12:15 p.m. --> airport security insists on Ziploc baggie for glass jar of liquid foundation
12:16 p.m. --> baggie now required for airport-approved container of mouthwash
12:18 p.m. --> toothpaste and airport-approved container of powder blush go into third baggie
12:21 p.m. --> airport security detains me over 99-cent can of shaving cream
12:30 p.m. --> allowed to throw out 99-cent can of shaving cream
12:41 p.m. --> sternly told to keep all items in approved Ziploc baggies for remainder of trip
12:43 p.m. --> promise to keep all items in approved Ziploc baggies for remainder of trip
12:44 p.m. --> allowed into airport
1:30 p.m. --> board plane, stewardess announces that our pilot is Capt'n Jack Sparrow
3:30 p.m. --> uneventful flight home, played solitaire, lost a lot

7 a.m. --> back at work...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

To Tell The Tooth...

I have nothing to say at the moment except that I should be working on research before the day's activities begin. However, work is a little difficult at the moment as we have "Pajama Pants Head" running around upstairs.

How can I do anything but laugh when I hear his tearing around upstairs and his father trying to (patiently) tell him to take his pajama pants off of his head and get dressed so that we can go out?

A few weekends ago, I attended a baby shower for one of my girl friend. While perusing the adorable baby blankets and onesies the night before, while trying to figure out whether of not a newborn really needed the so-cute-it-hurts sandals, I realized that I have no desire to return to those days. None. Na-dah. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

While she's dealing with the final months of pregnancy, I'm dealing with loose teeth and arranging playdates. She's about to hit the easy part of motherhood, while I'm looking at my kid and wondering how the hell I'll keep him from knocking his face off while he plays "stuntman!"

Speaking of teeth, the day before the baby shower, when I picked Gav up at my mother-in-law's, I asked what had become my usual greeting: "Do you still have your tooth?"


"Let me see."

He opened wide, proud to show me the tooth that was hanging by a thread and would not, not for anything, fall out.

"Um, no." It wasn't there.

He didn't believe me, of course, and ran to check in the mirror. After all, for the last several weeks I'd been telling him it was turning purple, green, or whatever other color popped to mind. I'd also told him that the tooth fairy was going to start charging him for the tooth because he was keeping it too long. Why believe me now?

It was indeed gone. FINALLY gone.

Of course, the next mystery was where had it gone?

We ransacked the couch where he'd been sitting, sifted through his bowl of Cheeze-Its, looked under the couch, ran our hands over the carpet, checked his shoes that were next to the couch, shook out the afghan he'd sat on, checked his tumbler full of iced tea... nothing. Na-dah. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

You can probably put two and two together on this one and guess where the tooth disappeared to, given that he'd been snacking at the time it apparently fell out.

But, please, no more jokes about "this tooth shall pass." Really. I'm sure it did by now and, no, I didn't look.