Sunday, April 29, 2007

A hysterical Mom (at last!!!)

Seventeen years ago I was having bad stomach pains so I went to the doctor who told me not to worry, it was just a urinary tract infection. That night my appendix burst.
Fifteen years ago, after years of trying to get pregnant (delayed appendectomy, scar tissue, surgery to remove the scar tissue) I had a miscarriage ("Don't worry, it's common. Won't happen again."). Then I had another miscarriage.
Nine years ago, after years of waiting for my daughter Charlotte to start talking ("Don't worry, Einstein didn't talk till he was four!") she was diagnosed as autistic.
Five years ago my husband Kirk started having stomach pain ("Don't worry. It's just acid reflux"). He ended up in the intensive care unit with doctors talking to me about the possibilty of multi-organ transplant and maybe death.
So you can understand why now, whenever a doctor tells me not to worry I start hyperventilating.

This week, all week, my youngest daughter has been sick. She started out feverish and droopy. Then she began complaining that her neck ached. I took her to the doctor who noticed that the lymph nodes were swollen all over her body. I went home, went on line and the number one hit was lymphoma. Immediately my mind fast forwarded to my baby bravely undergoing chemo with her hair coming out in fistfulls.The next day she was no better and the doctor's office was flummoxed so we took her to the ER. They checked her and her lymph nodes out and proceeded to do a full panel blood screening. They were checking for, among other things, mono and cancer. Cancer! And part of me felt 'Well, Eliza's been healthy for eight years. I've been lucky with her far too long, so I guess this was inevitable.' We waited..........and waited..........and, finally, the doctor came in and told us...........that Eliza had a cold. What a delicious and novel feeling to be, for once, among the great hoard of hysterical women that are, apparently, always pestering doctors with their silly worries. "It's just a normal virus," they said, inwardly rolling their eyes at me, the idiot mom, who had wasted their time. I wanted to hug each and every one of those annoyed doctors, bring them all home-made dinners, make them cookies. Because I and my eight-year old daughter, for once, got to be the normal ones, the ones who stroll out of the hospital back to life, instead of the ones who stay behind with their hearts twisting in fear, their lives changed forever.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Star of Panama window, next step

As many of you know, in my massive amounts of free time, when I'm not writing, editing, looking after four children, and avoiding housework, I make stained-glass mosaic windows. I make them out of salvaged glass glued (with Weldbond - it dries clear!) to discarded windows. I've been commissioned recently to make a window of the view from a friend's old-family home in Ecquador, of a Star of Panama (aka Poinsettia) tree with Mount Chimborazo in the distance. I'm sharing each step of it here, with you, for fun and for feedback. The elements I'm including in the window are: 1. The tree in the foregound 2. Snow-capped Chimborazo in the distance 3. A pink garden wall 4. Bare earth below.

For step one of this process (see my drawing in the blog archives - February, "Star of Panama") I sketched poinsettia plants to get a sense of how they branch and sprawl when they're allowed to grow free, and how the leaves shift gradually from green to red.

Step two, which you see above, is a rough mock up of the whole window so I can ponder overall composition and color. Things I'm thinking about right now are the placement of the mountain (lower? more distant?) and the shadow under the tree. I think I want a basic diagonal movement from upper right corner down to bottom left. So let me know what you think. Thanks.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"That's so gay!" part 2

I was startled out of my usual AM stupor recently by a headline in the New York Times aking, "Is your car gay?" (My answer, as a good liberal, of course is, 'Whatever my car's sexual orientation, I'll love and accept it.') Briefly, the article said that there are cars that both gay and straight people see (positively or negatively, depending on how enlightened or neanderthal they are) as shouting out, "I'm Gay!" For Gay men, it's sporty little convertibles. For Lesbians, it's the "Lesbaru Outback." I'm guessing my 81-year-old male ex-Navy-captain neighbor is going to be surprised to know he's been flaunting his lesbianism..... Anyway, the article went on to say that, according to consumer surveys, however, the car most gay people buy is the Toyota Camry. Which is also the most popular car for all Americans. This average-Americanness is borne out by my experience; my closest lesbian friend drives a minivan strewn with her three kids' junk, and a gay male friend only rides a bike (which is unamerican, but then he's Canadian). So when someone says, "That car is so gay," what they're really saying, whether they know it or not, is, 'That car is so popularly American!" I think I'm going to start trying to use "gay" as an adjective more correctly. Some examples might be, "Wow, that urban sprawl is so gay!" or, more positively, "Don't you think freedom of speech is really, really gay?"

P.S. - Thanks, everyone, for the great comments on my earlier posting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

slow learner update

I wonder if Buddha ever felt like jumping up from lotus pose and smacking someone upside the head? Apparently I have some distance to go before I settle down under the bodhi tree and the light of peace starts emanating from my third eye. The short version of this sad story (see posting below) is that after my daughters' friend stayed ALL spring break, including Easter morning (when she duly and unappreciatively received an Easter basket from the Easter fairy) and all three girls were driven to a concert at a club in Cleveland where there were twelve inches of snow and nasty driving conditions, and hoodies were purchased, boy-band members were hugged and did I receive effusive or even modest thanks? No I did not. And if you think that was a run-on sentence you should have heard me lecturing my girls after friend was finally sent home!!!

The road to eternal reincarnation may, in fact, be paved with good intentions, but I'm guessing it's also jam packed with pissed off moms. A Buddhist teacher would say that this is my opportunity to practice nonattachment but that will have to wait until my kids aren't grounded anymore.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Slow learner

There's a Buddhist prayer that says, "Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed...." Which is so profound and true, and SO hard to live by. Of all the organized religions in the world, Buddhism makes the most sense to me. So you'd think I'd automatically try a Buddhist approach when facing trouble. But you would be wrong. Like most of us, when trouble looks me in the eye I either, 1.Run away, or 2.Try to beat it into submission. Neither approach has a high success rate.

Recently, as some of you have read here, trouble is mostly taking the form of my newly teenaged daughters, with their boyfriends, their massive self absorption, etc. Our newest challenge has been the near-constant presence of their new best friend (or "bff, lol!" as they would say). She's not the easiest kid to warm to; her affect is a tart combo of sullenness and suspicion. Anyway, the few waking moments she's not around, they're IMing or text-messaging her and begging us to let her come over. (They're not allowed to go over to her house; she comes from a messed up home. Mom has multiple kids by multiple men and the current man is abusive. Friend lives part time with her grandma.) Although it may be coincidental, their friendship with her has coincided with a bad case of sudden-onset grade slippage here.

For a while I tried option #1, Be cool and hope it would go away. Utter failure. Which led me to #2, and I tried laying down the law with the twins -- friends over only two school nights a week, one sleepover per weekend.... Rules and consequences are things I believe in. But I also know they work better when they're laid down calmly and happily. Which I wasn't. Which the twins most certainly weren't. They were mutinous, I was irritated. Fun was being had by all. So last night, after she'd already slept over the previous night and hung around all day with no mention of ever going home, I stood outside the girls' door and tried to figure out what the heck I was going to do, because, of course I understand that there are very good reasons for her not to want to go back to her home. I just had to find a way to make it all work in our home.

And finally (better late than never is my life motto) it occurred to me to try embracing the situation. So I walked into that room and invited her to stay overnight again. Then I told all three girls that, as far as I was concerned, she could live with us as long as my girls did their chores, took their place as part of this family. And the surface of their sullen friend seemed to melt away and she gave me the soft, shy smile of an insecure girl. And my heart opened up and took her in. My girls rushed to assure me that they would do thier jobs, and yes, they would play with their younger sister, and they would walk the dog and clean the bathrooms. Which they did, and their friend helped them.

These solutions always seem so humiliatingly obvious, once I've found them, and I always feel like a nitwit that it's taken me so long. But hey, at least I got here. Good thing too, because she's been here for 48 straight hours and so far not a peep about going home. Well, I keep telling Kirk that I wish we had more kids.....

Sunday, April 1, 2007

soul and essence

In today's New York Times magazine there's a brief interview with the scientist Douglas Hofstadter. In it he articulates one of the most beautiful explanations, regardless of whether or not you believe in an afterlife, of one way the people we love remain with us after they die. I wanted to share it. (His wife died of cancer in 1993.)

"You can imagine a soul as being a detailed, elaborate pattern that exists very clearly in one brain. When a person dies, the original is no longer aaround. But there are other versions of it in other people's brains. It's a less detailed copy, it's coarse grained...aproximate. Lower resolution.'s much more than memory. It's the fact that my wife and I, for example, became so intimately engaged that her essence was imported into my brain."

I like the idea (and it's certainly how I feel) of the people we love being inscribed within us. it gives me a way to understand my feeling that I carry people with, and within me. That their voices speak out of me (not in a "Sybil" kind of way). It's more geological -- creatures that live eons ago left their imprints in the ground and became, overtime, part of the ground as fossils. We can know them, imperfectly, and remake them through those imprints they made on the earth they lived on.

My best friend when I was thirteen spoke out of my mouth just the other day. I made a wisecrack and thought, that's Annemarie! My Father, my tart-tongued gay men friends who died of aids twenty years ago, even the grandfather who killed himself before I was born, go with me through my life, rising to the surface unexpectedly in my words, thoughts, ways of looking. It pleases me.