Thursday, May 29, 2008

Inhale, But Watch the Thorns

I'm deeply honored to have been bestowed the Pink Rose Award by both Searching and STE. Y'all make me blush and scuffle my toes. And to know that this award originated from the one and only Kymberli? Well. Very honored indeed.

I'm going to pass this along to at least one person I know already got it, but there's a theme here so bear with me:

A few people in this neck of Blogville really got hit upside the head with rogue commenters in the past week or so. I'm never sure if these commenters are trolls who like pushing buttons and seeing what transpires, or if there really is some sad sack of a person who has nothing better to do than to read blogs that have nothing to do with him/her and butt in and comment in what I can only describe as an embarrassingly unhelpful fashion. So I'd like to give big bouquets of fresh goodness to the following:

Alice, at An Empty Chair at Our Table, who got a nasty comment the week of her daughter's deathiversary -- which sadly corresponded with a failed IVF. She handled the comment with far more grace than I ever would have.

Honey, who reads Alice's blog, who caught the comment and directed some of her own blog traffic over to show Anon how to abide. Thanks so much Honey, the world needs more people like you.

CLC, who also got some Anon bullshit, and who also handled it with grace and class, and

C., who stood up to some blissful ignorance regarding stillbirth in the face of being called "overly sensitive" and a whole lotta other garbage.

All of you rock my world. Pay it forward like so:

The rules are as follows:
1. On your blog, copy and paste the award, these rules, a link back to the person who selected you, and a link to this post. You will find the story behind the Pink Rose Award and other graphics to choose from there.
2. Select as many award recipients as you would like, link to their blogs (if they have one), and explain why you have chosen them.
3. Let them know that you have selected them for an award by commenting on one of their posts.
4. If you are selected, pass it on by giving the Pink Rose Award to others.
5. If you find that someone you want to nominate has already been selected by someone else, you can still honor them by posting a comment on their award post stating your reasons for wishing to grant them the award.
6. You do not have to wait until someone nominates you to nominate someone else

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Best Day Ever

So apparently some blog platforms have a place in their stats section where it conveniently tells you on what day you had the most traffic. I have yet to figure this out in Blogger -- clearly not so obvious. But, in other platforms, not only is it obvious, it's um, very poorly worded. Instead of saying something innocuous like "Most Traffic:" followed by a day, or "Date of Most page hits" it says


And let's face it, for blogs of this nature, or any number of other natures I could dream up, I'd be willing to guess the day with most hits does not remotely qualify for what "Best Day Ever" implies. They might as well have a little smiley guy blowing a horn with some confetti and balloons over the text.

As you can imagine by this point in the conversation, someone had their worst day ever, got a bazillion page hits by people tuning in and leaving condolence messages and looking for updates, and now blogger platform thinks this day is a reason to decorate and buy cupcakes. Every time A.M.S. at Our Own Creation checks her stats, she's greeted with this slap in the face: a chipper acknowledgment followed by a series of numbers which for her will always be the day she lost Sweet Zoë. Oh, and by the way, the same incongruity appears on Sweet Zoë's page, too.

So here's what we're gonna do: Make today, May 29, A.M.S.'s "Best Day Ever!" All you have to do is click. That's it. You don't have to read, you don't have to comment. Just click here, or on the tree picture on the upper right side of this blog, and that's it. Oh, and while you're there, please click over to Sweet Zoe's site too. And then tell your friends. All of them. If you don't want them to know about you and your weblife, send them here ("so I stumbled across this blog . . . ") and tell them to look for the icon on the top right.

And because her website runs on GMT (really, could this blog platform make things even more convoluted?), that means we here have from 8:00 PM Eastern, Wednesday, 5/28 through 8:00 P.M. Eastern, Thursday, 5/29.

Click it. We need a lot of clicks. Because "The Best Day Ever!" should be reserved for, you know, the best day. Like the funny absorbent angular guy says.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Up Your Nose

Apparently I need a dogblog. (But someone's already claimed that.)

But you can thank God almighty I do not have a mommy blog (at least in any ordinary sense of the term) or else it might go something like this:

I consider Bella, in her late-threes, to be smarter than average but certainly not brilliant. Smart enough that she lulls me into a state of complacency. She likes asking how things are spelled, and making up her own counting problems ending with a celebratory upward arm motion, "I just did math!" (Certainly not a trait she encountered in a Barbie commercial.) At the dog party on Sunday, she ran around asking everyone if they'd like a drink. "Would you like a Sun Tea? DON'T WORRY I'LL GET IT!" (arriving minutes later with very warm drink over modicum of ice). "Is that your beer? Do you need another? Do you LIKE beer?" The hostess gene is definitely recessive.

I should not have been surprised, and yet I was, when yesterday morning, already late leaving the house for a day in the country, I glanced into Bella's room where she had contentedly been playing by herself for 10 minutes, to find her awkwardly hunched over her shell collection on the floor.

"What are you doing?"

"Trying to get a seashell out of my nose."

A call to our neighbor who is a pediatrician currently on emergency rounds yielded the following information: a) he was currently 90 minutes away, not four doors down. b) Could we feel it? (I squeezed her nostrils together. No dice.) c) Did we own long tweezers? (why in hell would we own long tweezers? But I put them on my mental Target list which I'm sure I'll forget in 5 minutes time.) d) Could we get her to blow her nose out of one nostril?

DUDE, do you have a three year old? Can you get a three year old to do ANY.T.H.I.N.G? Cuz really I'll leave the shell up there and take picking up her clothes or not dipping her hand into her beverage cup or any number of assorted daily activities that will make my life eons easier.

Well, said he, the emergency room is likely not to be crowded this early on a holiday. So, in our most chipper yet resigned voice we said, "Bella, we're going to the hospital." At which point she began to bawl and the whole process of crying and snotting loosened things up, I got her to blow with me holding one nostril shut, and out came the seashell.

Crisis averted. And today we were light enough to joke that had it not come out, we probably would've driven to Children's (not the closet ER by any stretch of the imagination) and paged our point people. We guffawed at sending our seashell to Baylor for the genome project. But this is what deadbaby parents do, I suppose, is realize life is a series of medical mishaps and it's all fun and games until the seashell enters the optical cavity.

SO: SPILL IT. What did you jam into your nose or ear when you were a kid? You can post anonymously. And if you failed to be so curious, feel free to rat on your sibling.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Go, Dog, Go!

We adopted Max in '99, a month after moving into our new house (now old house, in old state). Max's picture on the DC Animal Shelter website turned us into cooing nutjobs: a small, red puppy, head askew, with upturned expressive ears. According to the story, Max was left homeless when his owner died. (We always kinda assumed the worst because I'm thinking you don't get a puppy when you're knowingly terminally ill, or 98. But who knows.) While Mr. ABF had a dog growing up, my life with animals had been limited to cats, gerbils, and fish. We already had Tucker & Kirby, two rescue felines that we dragged to the DC environs from Chicago where we adopted them. But now it was time for a dog.

For years, this was our life: two cats, one dog. I loved that having a dog forced me out to walk twice a day. We had long Frisbee lunches when the weather was good. We took him hiking with us, and we wrote letters and attended local meetings in order to build a dog park near our house.

And then, when Max was 5, we had Bella. And as you can imagine, pet time diminished dramatically. Gone were Frisbee lunches. Bella was not allowed in dog park. While I could walk Max in inclement weather, I couldn't always sling or push my kid through it, and walks would often get jettisoned for some out back time or sprints around the block.

Eventually we figured out a routine, but I think Max missed being the focus of attention (a claim which makes my oldest cat Tucker snort as he sits here reading over my shoulder). And at some point we began to ponder if he might be happier if we had a second dog.

We had tried this briefly: one day we entered PetStoreChain and walked smack into an enormous adoption event with some really scraggly dogs, one of which looked eerily like Max. Apparently a recluse had killed himself leaving 40 some odd dogs behind, in various states of disarray. Did we want one? No, not today. Could we foster one? Certainly. It was karma: we adopted a dog who had been fostered when his owner died, and now we could pay it back. We took home a small beautiful red dog.

The ticks were literally jumping off her body, and so shell shocked was she that we had to carry her outside to do her biz. She fell hard asleep when we weren't flea dipping her. She awoke two days later the cutest, sweetest dog, completely smitten with Max. We put her on a leash for what was obviously the first time, and began to teach her sit. And two weeks later at an adoption event, she was the star of show, her coat glistening, her head held high prancing around the store. She was adopted by a lovely couple who we kept in touch with for a few years.

We always thought Max would get jealous of another dog, but we discovered that WE were jealous of the other dog. Instead of greeting us at the door when we walked in, Max ran and sat by her crate, "Let her out! Let her out!" They wrestled for HOURS, never once coming over to investigate my lap or lick my hand. After she left the house I think we were all depressed for a week.

We started thinking maybe Max would be happier with a second dog. So like the good students we are, we did some research, and asked friends with two what the deal was. Somewhat on purpose we timed our visits to places to correspond with adoption events, and occasionally perused the shelter websites. Nothing really clicked.

And then we decided to move, and got pregnant, and a second dog seemed the farthest thing from our minds.

And then Maddy died.

And sometime in mid to late May last year, I came back from a run (sigh), and Mr. ABF said "you HAVE to go see the dog that [our neighbors] are fostering." Turns out our neighbors are friends with an emergency vet, who took in a dog that had been severely hurt in a car accident. Sadly, the owner relinquished him when faced with the bill. (This apparently happens a lot in animal emergency medicine, and I suppose is a good public service announcement for animal insurance.) And there at my neighbors, was the sweetest dog, his leg shattered and rebuilt, missing a few teeth, flapping his tail against the couch when I walked in. "We never foster dogs for this doctor although she asks us all the time," our neighbors said. "But this one reminded us of Max."

What the fuck were we doing? Barely three months beyond our daughter's death, neither of us able yet to get through a day without breaking down in some form, thinking about adopting yet another pet? Wasn't this irresponsible? Rash? Stupid?

Probably. But we did it. And suddenly after three months, I woke up.

For starts, I realized that when we brought Buddy in the house, we'd consciously have to let all the pets know that we still loved them. And it dawned on me (by "dawn" I really mean "hit on the head with a cast iron skillet"), I have pets. I had completely neglected them at least since February if not a bit longer. Max's walks had become fraught with emotion as I hated being in public and running into people. I was a zombie in my home, sleep-walking through my days, mechanically doling out kibbles at the appointed time. But with Buddy in the house, suddenly Tucker jumped on my lap. Kirby (Kirby! Where in hell have you been for three months??!!) started sleeping in our room. And Max developed energy. He wanted to play. He wanted to run. He wanted to show once again that he could retrieve too. I literally felt as though they were all brand new, and I was just discovering each of them for the first time.

Buddy also helped me personally. He needed taken care of, and needed rehab. And so rehab we did: we drove out to the dog therapy pool 2-3 times per week. Dutifully I gave him umpteen medications for pain and infection and swelling, and monitored his gait. When a screw holding the plate together in his leg popped, I drove out to the emergency vet during her overnight hours so she could look at it. We carefully observed him when we realized that his hip wouldn't stay in the socket, and pondered more surgery (we opted no; the hip has formed a false joint. He will likely suffer from arthritis earlier than usual, but we're already taking preventative measures). Buddy got me out of my house, talking to people, and reminded me that really I'm fairly good at looking after dependent mammals if given the chance.

Max is an alpha dog, and I like to say that he'd hump the fridge if he thought it would get him somewhere. I was a bit nervous about bringing another dog in the house, especially one who couldn't agilely let Max know he wasn't welcome, but I shouldn't have worried. Apparently they came to some gentleman's agreement in the yard, and there has never once been a show of dominance although clearly Buddy is thrilled to be the beta. (Gamma, corrects Tucker, nearly throwing up a hairball in amusement.) We knew Max was good with sharing, but I've never been so impressed to walk into the kitchen, see that one of the dogs got Bella's left-over peanut butter and apple dish off the counter (a dish which measures about 5" in diameter), and find them both with their noses in it at the same time. I know dogs who live together who bare teeth in order to claim roasting pans.

Buddy likes to sleep with a headrest. And it's not unusual to stumble upon the dogs somewhere -- on the bed, on the windowseat, on the couch -- lying asleep next to each other with Buddy's head resting on Max.

A year ago, Friday, Memorial Day weekend, our neighbors brought Buddy over, and left him here to become part of our family. Today, we celebrated a year with Buddy with many of the neighborhood dogs (about 15 in total), and even the vet who saved his leg and probably his life.

And quite possibly, our lives, too.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I posted over at Glow In the Woods today. About Guts. Your guess as to what I mean by guts:

1) the kind that hang over one's my waistband

2) the stuff that oozes out with blood in scary war footage

3) the stuff that makes you brave

4) the tiny voices from within. What, you don't have these?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Freud Would Have a Field Day

I've been suffering from allergies for the past week, bad. Real bad. You know when you wake up and feel like you had a pitcher of 'ritas the night before? Fuzzy, throbbing head? Cotton dry mouth? The need to chug a gallon of water? Yeah, that's me minus the party to go with it. Nothing like a hangover without the table-dancing and embarrassing cell-phone pictures to show for it. I've never had seasonal allergies quite to this extent; usually I'm an itchy eyes, few sniffles kinda gal. It's probably too late to do much about it this year, but next year at the onset I'm seeing someone about some more potent drugs than the standard OTC stuff which a) did not help with the congestion/breathing remotely, and b) made me feel as though I did chasers with my 'ritas.

I'm sure as a result of the completely ineffective pharms in addition to sleeping rather poorly in between post-nasal-drip coughing spells, I had two really weird dreams this week.

I open a door in a darkened house to discover that my mother has hung herself. I run and find my father, and we decide to wait until morning to make calls. At some point Bella wakes up -- she's in a room with me -- and after I explain what happened, she proclaims that she wants to see my mother's body. I agree, open the door, and my mother is in fact, not dead, and is berating me and my father for waiting until morning to make phone calls.

Wow. I'm telling you, this little vignette has so many layers we might as well spread guacamole on it and pass around a bag of chips. I'm actually not too hung up on the Bella part (she's been all about looking at dead birds before I dispose of them lately, and having small little discussions about death. Spring is chockablock with these lovely teaching moments), or the mother not dying part (OF COURSE we did it wrong! What's a mom dream without mom guilt?), but the initial part where she apparently killed herself? What is THAT about? Am I really thinking about my own mother here, or should we do the Jungian thing where everyone in the dream is really me? And if so, huh? OR, does this represent Motherhood, capital M? Am I wary of it's death? Am I killing it? Or is the message here about (some really fucked up) rebirth so to speak (it's just a flesh wound!)? Analysis welcome.

In dream number two, I remember the critical moments clearly, but the rest is very blurry around the edges:

I have a baby. Maddy. She dies. I believe this happens in a field at night. And a doctor informs me that she died before they could do whatever it is they needed to do, and ergo, I need to have another baby. And so I say, "fine," lock myself in a bathroom, by myself, and have another baby, who of course is Maddy. Who also dies, moments after birth right in my arms, but this time a bit more dramatically.

And that's all I remember, so I don't know if they got what they needed or not (I'm guessing no). I'm not sure if this is supposed to be telling me something (about future reproductive attempts?) or if it was just a standard issue deadbaby nightmare compliments of PTSD.

Needless to say, I'm off to try yet another [product placement] allergy medication, blow my nose, and hope these dreams turn into something involving David Beckham.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Myself, My Mother

Charmed had a moving piece recently about how she feels P@ige gave her back her father. That is, without P@aige dying, and her mother flipping out for the umpteenth and final time, she would've never resumed contact with her father. It's an odd gift to come from a dead child who never walked the earth (usually isn't it a live child that finally melts hearts and minds?), but a gift nonetheless.

And it got me thinking about relationships in my own family. So for your reading enjoyment, I'll dissect a relationship I got back, too.

Perhaps "got back" is too strong. My mom and I weren't remotely "lost" (ok, enough with that) like Charmed and her father. We were probably your typical loving mother/daughter relationship with a touch hint plethora of friction, stemming from the angst-ridden ages of 12-17. I realized a few things during my first few months at college when we were all sitting up in the wee hours trying to get to know each other and marvel in each other's backgrounds. One was that now, retrospectively, with a bit of context, my parents were pretty cool. Some of the other stories I heard were decidedly not so much. The second thing I realized, quite belatedly, was that I never really acknowledged all that my mother did for me -- in no small way to make sure I wound up in a better place than her: an English major hausfrau who went back to work during the Reagan years in order that the family might eat and I might attend college. She drove me everywhere (traveling soccer team, violin obligations), bought me nice accessories for my extracurriculars, and all while doing the same for my brother AND feeding us, clothing us, and not denying us such necessary items like turntables (shut up) and attending rock concerts.

Just how much thanks does one owe her mother? And what are good times to ask for and express this gratitude?

Mom also did a lot with the guilt thing. There was always an underlying sense that she wasn't thrilled with what she was doing, and hence the pressure for me to be something better. She realized early on that I respond very well to guilt. She never had to ground me because she could simply look at me and say with just the right tone of voice and just the right dismissive look "well, I'd stay home and work on that paper if I were you." And it worked.

We had a rather contentious five year period there when I was a teen, but I felt it rather melted away when I moved 2,500 miles away to attend college. I suddenly felt free to tell her stuff about boyfriends and whatnot that I never did when I was busy sulking in my room over my calculus homework. And it worked for quite some time.

Cut to my wedding, which was slapped together rather last minute at my aunt's home after we fired a wedding planner (long story). My aunt, obviously being the property owner, and only living three hours away, was as one can probably guess somewhat involved in the planning. So when my mom showed up 4 days in advance, a lot had already been done (phew), and what needed chewed through had to be pronto, without a lot of backing up and explaining how we arrived at the conclusion to use so and so as the caterer, or how we did the math that dictated we needed so many cases of wine. And mom flipped. According to my father, who for some reason instead of telling her to chill told me these things, my mom started down this "she loves {aunt} more than me" road which is hilarious if not ill-timed. And then there were furtive conversations with Dad asking me, "could you just tell your mom you're happy she's here? that she's important to you?"

And I realize I probably should've done this better all along, but IS NOW REALLY THE TIME?? I mean, isn't it self-evident I love her more than my aunt, her being my mom and all? And can we cut it with the whispered conversations already?

And on and on with the ridiculousness, which got so out of control that on my wedding day, as I was getting dressed, I heard my dad call up the stairs and I was so sure given the prior meetings that this was AGAIN about my mom's feelings that I went screaming out the door in advance of him saying anything about how I SIMPLY CAN'T DEAL WITH HER RIGHT NOW! I'M GETTING MARRIED FOR FUCK'S SAKE! CAN SHE JUST CHECK HER INSECURITIES UNTIL TUESDAY WHEN I HAVE SOME SPACE TO DEAL WITH THEM? and emerged to see my father with one of my grad school friends: "um, M's here." (Cut to friend looking at me with Deer in Headlights look. She was apologized to, and bribed with alcohol delivered to her door following this bridezilla episode.)

Cut now to Maddy's birth/death. My parents were here "to help out" which translates into: read the paper until 10 a.m., and agree to "help" with whatever it is I need done -- right after they make a few phone calls, launch a 30 minute discussion about what to do about dinner, and another 45 minute discussion on a movie/art exhibit/political issue they just read about in the paper. Maddy dies. I do what any mother would probably do in the next 48 hours, which is cry a lot, drink gatorade exclusively, cry some more, spend copious amounts of time with my living toddler. To be greeted with a "I don't think you're taking care of yourself" lecture from my mom, replete with airplane/putting mask on yourself before the child metaphor.

Oh, and at least one visit from my father, asking me "could you just tell your mom that you're glad she's here?" met this time by a stream of expletives about just who was here for whom.

Needless to say, when they left a few days later, I decided I needed some time away from them. And didn't speak to them for about two months.

I started up again with trepidation. I simply did not have the emotional reserves to deal with both my own overwhelming depression, and my mother's insecurities. I expected the worst.

And she was amazing. During the time I didn't write her, she would simply sit down and send emails, never asking me to respond, always ending with "call when you're ready. We love you." I'm not sure how she found Jesus in there, but she did. And she abides. And when she fucks up (asking Mr. ABF about the birth of his brother's baby) she apologizes and then analyzes what she did wrong and verbalizes out loud that she'll be more careful in the future. She listens to me talk about Maddy. She asks about her, how I'm doing, if we've heard any news. How Mr. ABF is doing. That she thinks of her. While my in-laws were standing me up at December's memorial service, my mother, 2,500 miles away, arranged her own candlelight service and asked for a picture. On Maddy's birth/death week, they sent flowers, asked us what we needed, and then lit a candle every night to represent her short life. For Mother's Day I donated money to "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" in her honor, and she was thrilled.

I'm stunned. It's as if it took this massive tragedy in order for her to finally just be a mom -- one who just gives without asking, and takes in return simply the love from her grateful daughter. I do know that her best-friend's daughter-in-law is a grief counselor, and it may just be there were some harried phone calls and exchanges of literature in there. But the fact that she took it upon herself to even do that (and I don't know for sure that she did) speaks volumes. She's moved from someone needy to someone I need, she's become an advocate and a shoulder and a comfort.

I'm not sure I'm ready to enable her fantasy about moving to my neighborhood, and she still drones on about movies she's seen (often giving away the critical parts as I check them off my Netflix list with the phone on my ear), but she's been terrific. I guess if I had to do a quicky analysis I'd say: mom tries to make sure daughter winds up ok; mom flips a bit when daughter is independent and no longer needs her; mom comes around when daughter does in fact, need her.

I remember when I had a foot problem around age 11 (I know! Foot problems then too! Clearly a chronic problem) the doctor told her she would have to buy me better soccer shoes. We researched who made the best shoes, and she drove to the one store in Phoenix that sold them, and forked out what was then a fortune for children's footwear. And she poured herself into soccer, not knowing much about it at first, and now she looks forward to World Cup like I do and tapes all the matches, and even confesses that sometimes at halftime she has to pour herself a glass of wine to calm the hell down. She always helped me become better by involving herself in my life to the best of her ability. And she's done it here, too. She's involved herself with Maddy, and with my grief, but in a good way. And I certainly don't thank her enough.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Knowing Me, Knowing You

We're getting our kitchen remodeled. Remodeled probably doesn't quite cover what will be done, as a staircase will be removed/moved, everything will get gutted to stud, floor will be replaced, firebox raised, etc., etc., ad nauseum, bank account groans. We have a lovely architect whom I trust completely and we got her via friends who also just "remodeled" (re: completely obliterated and then reconstructed) their kitchen. I spoke with the wife-side of these friends Friday night and she informed me that our architect has a tic: when she agrees with you, she looks at you right through her glasses. When she disagrees with you, she looks at you over her glasses.

Fascinating! Of course I wish I had known this PRIOR to Friday's three-hour session which I madly replayed in my head, trying to remember how exactly she reacted when I proposed certain things. I'm now wondering if I'm going to be able to keep a straight face the next time we meet: will I confirm this tic by stating something wild ("you know when you said you thought this wall would look great in a different color? I was thinking we could pay homage to our favorite sports teams?") or something more mundane ("So -- mixing concrete with shards of antique glass -- I think it goes!").

How I'll keep from giggling I just don't know.

And then, this morning, Mr. ABF was tinkering around on my laptop when I really needed to get a post up, so I grabbed a coffee-table publication (trying to be as vague as possible to spare the innocent) and started leafing through and stumbled upon an article which referred to a local doctor -- with the same last name as one of our Children's point people. So I off-handedly asked Mr. ABF if he thought they might be related, and he of course plugged things into the google and we found . . . . the wedding notice of our Children's point person. You know, the personal ones that they run in a certain big time newspaper? Turns out he's married to someone from an important family (also very interesting), but the hilarity here is that he a) wooed this woman away from a lover with whom she was living with (GO DOCTOR! GO DOCTOR! IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY!), and b) did so with a mushy letter which they quoted.

Every time I think of this story today, I am brought almost to the point of laughing out loud, it is so funny to know something this personal about someone with whom I have a completely different relationship. I have no idea whether we'll have occasion to talk to any of the Children's people any more (although should we get pregnant -- stop laughing -- and deliver a baby -- I hear you laughing -- they'll all be present in the room), but if I see or even talk to this person again, it will take every fiber of my being not to bust out in giggles or make some reference to the letter.

Which brings me around to today's subject: Do you know something about someone -- something they don't know that you know? Something that makes things awkward? funny? entertaining? (painful?) And NO FAIR telling me things about me. It will only serve to freak me out how much you've googled and I'm tired and can't deal with that stress. Please.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Missings

Possible Mother's Day missives from the deadone:

Geez, mom, would it kill you to do a few situps?

How come Bella's tree is bigger than MY tree?

Could you move my ashes out of that faux Tuscan thing you have me in, into something more meaningful (I mean really! Some depression glass kitsch from G'ma's would be more appropriate, no?), and then slide me out a bit on the shelf so I can see the television. Let her watch Spongebob more often -- dude cracks me up.

If dad's gonna use that room as an office, tell him to paint, please. But putting the rowing machine in there? Sweet.

You know, 2.5 years between kids is a death-knell (bwah! I slay me! HEE! there I go again!) anyway -- we woulda been at it like cats and dogs.

Miss Me.

Mom. You know that puzzle of Bella's -- it's a cow or something, and she's so effin' smart (hmph, she wishes) she puts it together without the picture reference, and it's wood and ergo Buddy ate a piece of it? And then she moped for days every time she saw the puzzle and refused to play with it because Buddy ate a piece. And then she finally tried to do it again, but because it was missing a piece, she kept trying to jam something else in that looked like it might fit and getting frustrated? And finally, one day she just made the puzzle, pointed to the empty gap and said "Buddy ate that piece." And now she makes it all the time, always ending satisfactorily, "Buddy ate that piece."

Do you see, mom? When it comes to me, I'm fine with you just missing.

Just miss.


Mother's Day seems to me one of those holidays, much like Valentine's, where someone originally thought "how lovely! How could this holiday possibly be a bad thing? Celebrating mom! Celebrating love! I mean, everybody's got a mother!" And then advertising and popular culture (term used extremely loosely) ratcheted up the expectations. And now, sadly much like Christmas, these holidays are all about how much, how unique, how original, and BLING. (Good Lord, do the people at DeBeers ever rest? Is this a good time to show off my Earth Day diamond stud earrings?) There's now a shitload of pressure on lovers/spouses/children to do something grand and wonderful and monetarily enormous every year. To outdo the last. I have a feeling even the best of moms in the best of situations often feel a little let down come 8:00 p.m. on Sunday when they think, "that's it? that's the thanks I get for being a mom?"

But we're not exactly the best of situations here, are we. I have a number of friends who lost their mothers, some quite early in their lives, some quite recently, and I think about how this day must feel empty to them. That they stare at the cards, wondering if they sent enough, expressed enough, cared enough when mom was here. There's no one to take out to brunch, just a Sunday with a lot of heart and open arms and no where to go with it.

And then there's infertility. I spent three mother's days wondering if I would ever be a mom, and I know there are people out there who have spent far more, and some who are realizing they will never be. This holiday felt like a slap in the face. A cold glass of water illuminating what "normal" people are like, and what I must be. What life should be like in a television program or advertisement, and sadly what it is. A holiday that excludes, not includes. It's not like St. Patrick's where you can, in your Lebanese/French descent put on a plastic green hat, pick up a beer, and party with the rest of them if you so choose.

And finally, there's us. Those who are moms to children who will never be able to make a card, who will never utter the words "I love you," who never opened their eyes to see us. In all probability Maddy never felt me or heard me either. There will never be thanks for my nine months of carrying her, my labor, my sleepless week, the decisions I made, the time I spent. I will never be appreciated by her for the time I gave her, in my mind and heart because I couldn't drive her, tuck her in, hold her after she fell, pack her lunch, and respond "I love you, too." Neither of us were given that opportunity.

There is only this, the missing. And I'm going to try, instead of being bitter and angry and excluded, to put on blinders, (perhaps fortified with a shot of bourbon,) work in my yard, and just miss.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Eight Belles

So in order to get Bella to watch the Derby, which I sorta did, I flipped on the tube and pointed out Eight Belles, the only filly in the race. The only girl, Bella! We've gotta root for her! She's beautiful! And on and on about her number (5) and the colors her jockey was wearing (red and white checks) and there she goes into the gate, and let's follow her around the track!

And we cheered and whooped and Eight Belles came in second. And Bella burst into tears because she didn't win. And I was trying desperately not to laugh at this emotional collapse while delivering my "awwww, honey, your horse doesn't always win" lesson, which I think is a fairly important one in life come to think of it, when suddenly the television grew rather quiet, and there were some panicked statements about a horse down on the track, and suddenly two very big equine ambulances pulled out in front of the stricken horse.

Never a good sign when big vehicles are maneuvered in front of an accident scene, another grim life lesson in case you ever wonder if the city bus was involved in the accident or just serving as an 18-row distraction.

And while they spoke in the delicate horse euphamisms, "they're putting her down," I looked stricken at my child who had just invested the last 30 minutes of her life into this animal. I've already explained two horse deaths to her this year (one of my aunt's -- and her big stuffed animal's namesake, and my neighbor's) and just did not have the heart to tell her what had just happened while she was still wailing about not winning, but starting to perk up remembering I had said something about a necklace of roses for the winner. And I told myself, I will tell her if she asks. I will tell her the truth, in full, if she asks. Please don't ask, Bella. Please don't ask. She didn't. I turned off the television.

And I promised myself to never, ever, ever cheer, hope, root, pray, support, dream, want, wave flags, wave foam fingers, for anything (when the anything involves a live object) again as long as I live. I would hate to see this losing and then DYING thing become a pattern.


Hey, Yo, Commenter Shout Out:

Brittany who commented on Going Through It Again: would you mind horribly telling me more about your situation? How they knew (that the placenta ruptured AND corrected?) What happened then? And anything else you'd like to tell me. That is, if you're comfortable. You can do so in the comments or email me at TashABF at gmail. If you're not up to it, I totally understand. Just trying to wrap my head around some of this.

Megan, if you're there and reading, email me too. Would like to know 'sup.


Hey, thanks a million for following over to Glow in the Woods. (Shameless shill.) Really, though. I posted again today, and need to sort out in my head long term what's going to live here and what will get deposited over there. Had some mother's day angst that wound up over there, but believe me, there's more where that came from, so I'll try and get something up later this week. I'm guessing anything that necessitates the f-bomb will probably wind up right here, if that's ok by you. Hope you all are well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, Keith

May 4th would've been Keith Haring's 50th birthday.

Keith Haring is my favorite artist. I arrived in NYC in 1987, a young impressionable eighteen year old, and among other lovely things there are to discover in Manhattan (pizza! unfrozen bagels! $20 rolexes!) I found art. I sighed at the Met, oohed at the Frick, pondered at the Guggenheim, scrunched at the Moma, exhaled at the Institute of Photography. And Keith Haring popped up in between, in graffiti, on billboards, his shop. I used to love going to the now-defunct PopShop and marveling at the art that eclipsed the floor, ceiling, and walls. (Interesting, during the late 80's I remember clutching my purse and then running through dark and shuttered warehouses, away from the lions, tigers, and muggers, down Lafayette en route to Little Italy. I returned in '96 and found the PopShop surrounded by galleries and outdoor cafes. Long live urban renewal.)

To put it bluntly, Haring's art made me -- dare I say it -- happy. It was bold, colorful, direct. I loved that he didn't title things, leaving the interpretation up to the viewer. I love that he had such a strong affiliation with children. He did installations at Children's Hospitals and Museums, and often ran workshops for kids. Art, for him, was all about accessibility and understanding, for children, commuters, everyone.

And then he announced he had AIDS, and watched (I wonder how) the value of his art begin to soar in front of his eyes.

Haring died February '90, during my Junior year. He was 31. His funeral was held at the cathedral across the street from campus.

The '80s were overshadowed by this new disease that seemed to strike down young men in their prime. It was unrelenting, and it was heartbreaking. I remember watching a Nightline ep on a man watching his lover die. I knew very little of gays in Arizona (although I would come to discover three of my classmates were as was my 5th grade teacher), but I really didn't need to in order to choke back tears. People's lovers were dying. People's sons were dying.

I'm incredibly impressed and grateful that medical advancements made it possible for so many to go on leading productive lives with this disease, but often wonder what our lives would be like if some of these men had lived: what would Haring be doing today? Would his art have changed at all? What political messages would he espouse? (during his brief life he took on a myriad of causes including HIV/AIDS, literacy and anti-apartheid) Would his art have been incredibly expensive, as it is today in its finite set, or would it have been completely accessible as he kept signing skateboards and freewheeling spray paint on subway walls?

I'm such a fan that I get email announcing benefit parties for Haring's 50th (not a date I had memorized). And I suppose when I saw this message arrive in my in-box, after the year I'd had, I could've reacted in one obvious way: so what. At least Haring got to express himself, got to love, got to interact with children. He left his mark, and my baby didn't even open her eyes. But you know, quite contrary to that, I was just sad. The lost potential of the famous somehow only magnified the lost potential of my own. Would she have been an artist? Someone who cared about children? How is it we can birth children and nurture and care for them only to have them struck down later in life by things we can't control?

I obviously didn't know Kieth Haring personally although we lived in the same borough, at the same time. But his work touched me deeply, and thus his death touches me too. I miss you. Happy Birthday.


I'm not a tat person. But I've often said, dating back to college in fact, that should I ever find myself in a tattoo parlor on the low end of a dare, drunk, or given the option in exchange for a million dollars, I'd get Haring's iconic "Radiating Baby" placed somewhere on my body:

I think at some point last year when Mr. ABF began discussing his memorial tat and whether I was interested in partaking of ink to skin, I mentioned this sentiment and how wholly inappropriate I felt it was now. The happy shiny baby? No thank you. But when the email arrived with the icon at the top, it somehow struck me differently: is it the radiant baby? the one that shines despite it's one-dimensionality? The imagined joy, scribbled with one deft thick black line and a few dashes around? Merely an icon, never to be realized in life? Haring never had children, so what was it about babies he was trying to say? Were they happy? Or did they represent some light? A flicker of possibility? of hope? It hit me that Maddy is this, the never-ending radiating pulsation within my mind and heart. For some reason, especially today, it still seems appropriate. Something to think about, you know, next time I'm strapped down in a tat parlor in need of inspiration.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This is for C_____

I started blogging, for me. As a journal. To dump, to record, to work through things. And then I discovered how this community worked. People actually responded, supported me. I found by reading others' blogs that they picked into the recesses of my grief, asked questions I hadn't asked of myself, and gave me an opportunity to respond. I found in others' words similar questions, similar problems, similar metaphors, and was so fucking relieved that I wasn't losing my mind. Ocasionally someone would startle me, and cause me immediatley to react "No, Niobe, that's not it at all." But oddly, the sentiment would roll around in my head for a few hours until I found myself agreeing with it completely. Those ahead of me on the grief path would offer reassure, those behind me, support.

I've noticed a few bloggers have recently written about getting so sucked up in this corner of the 'net that it might actually be harmful to their recovery. That reading and rereading the same stories is overwhelming and difficult and profoundly sad. That a light has finally glimmered, and perhaps it's time to move out of this corner and into another before the batteries on the flashlight run dry. And I get that. I do. That might very well be me someday.

But not today. Today I find myself working through my own life while sharing in others, appreciating everyone's way of expressing their losses, reading the names -- the simple joining of letters -- of our lost children. It moves me, it helps me. It makes my burden easier to carry, and disperses the load.

I discovered grief blogs rather by accident; I had actively sought out a few familiar stories after my own loss, but was so overwhelmed that I had to shut down the computer. And then months later, Julie said she was ridding herself of her blogroll (what?? How in hell do you expect me to find my way around now??) and pointed over to Mel's. And there was a tidy header on stillbirth and neonatal death. And I started making my way through the good titles, and 10 minutes in knew I needed to do one of these.

But it was round-about and accidental. And then this spring, a grief mama said HEY! and decided that perhaps a more central location for information -- a springboard into this community -- an upfront disclosure that you're not alone and that someone out there feels the way you do -- might be in order.

Today, Bon, Kate, Julia, Janis, Niobe, and I are launching Glow in the Woods. Please think of passing through now and again. We'll all be writing over there a few times a month in addition to our own blogs. We'll be doing some interviews, some co-authoring, there'll be guest writers, and we'll reach out and explore your words, your experiences, your grief. There'll be a chance to connect with other babylost mamas, and who knows -- perhaps you'll reach out and grab someone yourself.

I occasionally get email from people who don't have blogs. (I'm no longer sure of what the blogger sign up to comment thing entails, but it's probably a bit more invasive than it needs to be. And damn if that word identification thing isn't driving people to drink lately!) Who are rather amazed at the sense of community. And I try in my small way to invite them to be a part of it. One woman wrote to me:

Grief of this sort can be so incredibly isolating

Yes, it can C_____, it can. This is for you. And the others like you who have lost. I'm so incredibly sorry you're here, but please know you can pull up a chair and talk when you're ready.