Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I am cleaning the kitchen, wiping down the counter and clearing it of innumerable crumbs; refilling the napkin dispenser; sweeping coffee grounds into the trash; washing the girls' plastic dishes from Ikea.

Rick Ross comes on my iPod, but I'm not in the mood for his boastful and hypersexual rap. I skip past him to Sia.

I am torn between wanting to talk about my friend, who is desperately ill from metastatic liver cancer, and believing I shouldn't. I am going to see her later this morning, to stay with her while her husband is at work. So many of her friends have spent time with her this way. Her story isn't mine to tell, but I feel a strong desire to type it out with my fingers nonetheless. And this is most likely because I have been doing a lot of crying lately and just want some selfish sense of release.

Like a note passed in class or tied to a balloon and let go, or written on a paper airplane and let go at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

She's too young to pass into the bright ether.


This morning, Lillian said to me as she was brushing her teeth, "How sad for Tara's children." She continued brushing for a bit. "They won't have their mommy."

There is no lesson to take from suffering except to find beauty in the mess whenever we can. When I read about Susan Niebur's death, I cried for a long time. And even though she is worth all the tears shed for her, I can tell you that not all of the tears from my eyes had her name on them.


Yesterday, I wasted feeling down. I've been fighting a virus for nearly two weeks, and it's sapped me. I went to bed very early, and woke at 1:00am. An hour later, I crept downstairs for a change of scenery. Our sunroom was filled with light, which I at first thought came from the moon. A look out the window suggested that it was simply our outdoor light, which broke through the muntins on the windows, between the leaves of our plants, to make patterns on the floor. At 3am, Lillian came to see me, and I carried her back to bed despite the danger to my back. As I got her settled, I listened briefly for Hannah's breathing and went back downstairs.

Those were the things I tucked into my heart as I sat in the near dark.


When should prayers change, from asking for a cure to asking for a peaceful and good death? And is that a betrayal?

I think of the Pieta, and of Christ's broken body splayed across his Mother's lap. The very worst death for the very best person. I don't want my friend to die frightened. I don't want my friend, our friend, to die.


I need to take a deep breath, pick some clothes off of my bedroom floor, order some hoagies that I'll pick-up for us to eat for lunch, and of course, stop my crying. She's still here. I tell myself that.

GunsNRoses comes on my iPod. I know they don't tolerate crying, so I believe I'll stick with them for a while.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We'll Be In the Basement If You Need Us

Sometimes I dream about tornadoes. They are always some distance away, and I watch, feeling the duality of terror and excitement. They're beautiful and awesome, and deadly.

The most recent dream had me watching two funnels descend from an enormous wall cloud, with me shouting, "There's rotation! There's rotation!" Like some kind of idiotic storm chaser in over her head.

I was scared because I couldn't find Lillian.

She, a tornado in her own right, is terrified of storms, and I needed to locate her so we could head to the basement. But just like Aunty Em calling to Dorothy, all my cries were for nothing. All I needed was a conservative gray bun and a calf-length house dress and apron.

The dream, more merciful than real life, cut off before a tornado hit. Also, the honest truth of it is that I can always find my children. Because they're always up in my grill.

I don't bother trying to interpret my dreams anymore. What I took away from this one was that I watch too many weather shows. But if I were to consult a dream dictionary, I'm certain it would suggest some underlying feelings of upheaval and stress. Or maybe a difficult person in one's life, like an almost 6-year old child who loves pushing buttons. Hence, a large and ominous cloud that drops rotating winds to ground level, threatening to hurl both people and objects all over the place.

I get hurled. A lot. But then sometimes I gather up energy from the sky and start my own turning. Watch out.

A storm rated Kelly on the Fujita scale, F-K, meets a storm rated Lillian on the Fujita scale, F-L. Every object might still in place but Lord it feels like things are in shambles. Sometimes the F-L tornado weakens before it can do any major damage, but sometimes it twists and howls for what feels like an eternity.

I confess to watching shows about tornadoes. All the time. I watch Storm Stories on The Weather Channel, and Storm Chasers on Discovery. I have tornado documentaries saved in my Netflix queue. I know that my fascination might be interpreted as rubbernecking, stopping to crane my neck at someone's completely destroyed abode.

It's not really like that, though. I am fascinated by the fact that people drive right up to these monsters, sometimes in the midst of giant hail and insane lightning, just to film them. They purposefully wait until the last possible second to flee. And then when they do, it's always with a flurry of shouting. "Get in the car now! Go! Go! Go!" I would have been shouting that an hour earlier. Or, more likely, I'd already have been ensconced in the basement with some Bailey's for me and some Goldfish for the girls. You may as well ride out a storm with some snacks.

Last week, the kids were watching a show on the Disney channel when the Emergency Broadcasting System beeped their dramatic message through. A tornado warning was posted for our area. A warning means business. It's vastly more serious than a 'watch.' So this message told us where the tornado currently was and where it was headed. It was enough to send my kids into a tailspin while I did damage control.

"Guys, no, we're not getting a tornado."

"But the man said..."

"The man was wrong."

Five minutes later, after much internal hand-wringing and anxious moving from window to window, the warning was cancelled and I went through the much less strenuous business of easing them through a thunderstorm. There were hardly any winds at all.

The girls have decided that they're never living in Kansas. Or Texas or Missouri or South Dakota or Arkansas or Ohio or Louisiana. Apparently, Pennsylvania is stressful enough for them.

Both my awake and sleeping selves are fine with this.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So I Went Out Back and Took Some Pictures

It's been a ridiculously long time since I've updated. I finished Anatomy & Physiology II, took an 8 week course in Pathophysiology, and now I'm done for the summer, and can do things like eat coffee and Frangelico granita on the deck while watching the bunny destroy our plants. Until the girls discover my whereabouts and then assail me with pleas for snacks. I love them. I do. But all they want to do is eat and climb on me.

In lieu of an actual post containing, you know, words, I thought I'd show you a bit of what offers me serenity. When it's not 100% humidity. Anything higher than 80%, and I'm merely looking out a window.
(The Japanese Maple has purple-red leaves. I love it.)

(If I were a bird, I'd want to live here.)

(These were lilies. We have very cute, but slightly assholish bunnies in our yard. They like to eat some of our plants, looking wildly adorable while doing it.)

(This is where the bunnies live. Can you see? They enlarged the entrance! Also, there used to be lilies in front of this lattice. They didn't even leave the stem stumps behind.)

(Birdhouse Row. A family of wrens occupied the one on the far right. They were delightfully noisy. But all is quiet now since they took off.)

(St. Francis has an empty basket. Which isn't accurate. But if we filled it with sunflower seeds, the squirrels would knock him over.)

(Except for the potted plants, these hydrangeas provide the only color in the backyard after the azalea blooms die.)

(The dogwood stretches towards the sun.)

(These trees -- tulip poplars -- are the reason that thunderstorms fill me with a bit of dread.)

(Their canopies loom large. A falling limb is no joke.)

(David lined the path with rocks. It looks lovely.)

(It's hard to see, but the beech tree has a carving in it. It says "DH," and then something I can't make out, and then "1915." Which I think is awesome.)

(The bottom of the beech is completely different than the smooth upper trunk.)

(Remnants of the June 2010 storm. Poplar, gingko and black walnut. Clean-up took months.)

(What would you call this shade of red?)

(My ghostly child through the window.)

The end.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For Reals, the Letdown Is No Joke

Last night in class, our professor was lecturing to us about gestation, birth and breastfeeding. He acknowledged that he was male, and apologized for the fact that his junk prevented him from doing any of the things he was chatting about. And that we probably knew a lot more about this stuff than he did, being that the majority of our class is female.

I thought that was polite, but unnecessary. I don't subscribe to the rom-com notion of birth as something that men can only be a part of on the slapstick periphery. No, they can't push babies out of their hormone-relaxed pelvises. No, they don't have to deal with labor or stitches or lochia or sore nipples. (Or hemorrhaging after a c-section and having a team of health care workers beating upon their just opened-up abdomens.)

But that doesn't mean they can't be involved.

I subscribe to the notion that they can pay their dues in the still, dark night. You know, when the baby wakes every 15 minutes for the next 6 months of life. For those men who didn't pull their nighttime weight, I think you will have to pay for a bit in the afterlife. And don't try that "but my wife was breastfeeding" line. You have legs to walk, and arms to rock, so get moving son!

Anyway, when he wrapped up talking about breastfeeding -- the hormones involved, the colostrum giving way to early milk, and the milk-ejection reflex -- he did ask if we had anything to contribute.

I considered raising my hand and saying, "About that milk-ejection reflex...that's no joke. Once I shot milk from the couch to the landing in my old house. Once I was picking up apples in my neighborhood produce store and before I knew it, I had two hamburger bun-sized wet spots on my shirt. Good thing it was still jacket weather! And once, after a shower, it was like sprinkler city up in my bathroom. My advice is to get used to wearing a towel around your neck like a decorative scarf."

But I thought better of it and kept those little gems inside.

I'm going to be giving birth soon, to a child that I will name Nursing School. I got into my second first-choice school, and have found a happy medium between insane cost and a truncated timeline. I am extremely excited, finally seeing my goal within reach. And I have spoken with several women who went through the program with children, and though challenging, it appears to be doable with ample support.

But I confess that it's the 'ample support' part that worries me. Not that everyone isn't supportive. Everyone is TOTALLY supportive.


But the things that typically fall by the wayside anyway will be FALLING COMPLETELY BY THE WAYSIDE. Laundry, meal-planning, grocery shopping, cleaning the Italian hair rug off our bathroom floor, making sure everyone is dressed and comfortable and homework is done, addressing the random sticky spots everywhere...

Who will do these things?

And don't point to my husband, who will be working a full-time job and wrangling children in my absence. And though he does have a burgeoning spirit of domestic helpfulness, it is unlikely that he will become St. David, Holy Replacement of the Woman Who Completes All Things Sacramental, But Unsung, in the General House Vicinity, Occasionally Half-Assed But With Good Intentions.

Take last night, for example. I know playoff hockey is on, but goodness, just do the dishes when I'm at school. It's all evidence that it's going to be a messy 14-months around these parts.

Maybe not. Maybe everything will all just fall into place in some sort of miracle on par with the raising of Lazarus.

So, I'm going to nursing school! The world around me will likely fall completely to shreds, but we'll all make it through. And one of these days, in the not-so-distant future, I will be making my L&D rounds. Perhaps that's when I can share my thoughts on the milk-ejection reflex. Any new mom would find that incredibly valuable and helpful. Right?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Letter To A Wet Blanket

Dear Funk,

It's been a while. A few months, at least. I can't say I'm exactly glad to see you, but at least we're highly familiar with one another, and so there's no great adjustment that needs to take place during your visit.

You're a bit like a wet blanket. Or maybe one with thorns? Or maybe one that's been set aflame.

Ah...I don't know a good metaphor for you. You're an empty bird feeder. Rancid milk. A Twinkie without the filling.

So, why did you swing by? How long will you be hanging out? I'm thinking you may have sensed a dropping, that sad oocyte that has nowhere to go, sticking around and waiting for company, ultimately to be discarded like an egg shell. It can be bad around these parts when that happens.

Or maybe it's the stress of school, the loss of a job that was supposed to be temporary (but not this temporary), or the need to get away, to a place that requires sandals and short cocktail dresses and staying up until 3am until passing out on a beach.

Funk, when you're around, I don't clean the peanut butter remnants out of the jar so I can put it, nice and clean, in the recycling. I just throw that shit out. Alright, who am I kidding? I throw that shit out all the time. Little 1 surrounded by a triangle be damned. But honestly, it's only the peanut butter jars. I'm fastidious about recycling everything else.

So let me amend that. Funk, when you're around, I don't wash out Ziploc bags to reuse them. That's the truth right there. They all go into the garbage, as if I can spite the whole gray-cast world by adding one more item to a landfill. I know you don't care. You'd be the character in a Carl Hiassen novel that discards all her fast food detritus out her car window.

You used to come around more often, and I'm grateful that you're too busy to show up. The last time you visited, you stayed so long I began to worry, in that way that I've mastered, that you were going to stay forever.

Kelly and Funk, BFFs.

I worried that I'd have to make that trip...that sad, lonely trip for a pharmaceutical to tweak those pesky neurotransmitters. Serotonin, that pill would say, stop your re-uptake! Funk, sometimes I crack myself up.

You departed just as I thought you had hung up your greasy coat to stay. So long, you said. And then, just for good measure, See you later, alligator!

Funk, I'm sad to say this, because I'm generally unfailingly nice and polite. I gave you the finger on your way out the door. Of course, I did this when your back was turned.

I should be studying for a test right now, Funk, but you have me all consumed right now. Your presence makes me apathetic. And itchy. And bitchy. And tired.

I'm going to ask you to stay here for a while, so I can go out to my neighborhood cafe and read about metabolism, the urinary system, and fluid and electrolyte balance. Maybe you'll listen to me for once and not follow me, so I can sip some decaf and compose an essay in my head of how blood plasma turns into urine. It all starts out in the renal corpuscle. But I know you don't give a crap.

Do me that one favor. We have a pretty solid history together. Maybe not a good one, but tried and true.

See you later, alligator.

Your not-a-friend,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So Lucky

This is the daughter I have.

I'm not sure what I've done to deserve her, but I'll keep her nonetheless. Seven is charming. Seven is conversation. Seven is compassion, empathy. Seven is funny.

I've tucked this note, written for me during a time of multiple stressors, into a special box.

I don't stop enough in my flurry of activity to acknowledge this. She is so awesome. And she's mine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thrombi In My Brain

I have decided that I want Rihanna and Drake's 'What's My Name' to be the soundtrack to this year. More specifically, I want to walk down a street in some wickedly crazy, but somehow spectacular clothes with awesome red hair while people rush to play drums around me. Making this particularly challenging, I need to look ethereally beautiful while doing so. How can we make this happen?


I read In the Cut this past summer. (Yes, I can often be found reading erotic thrillers. Just perusing the Amazon reviews, one boldly states "Not for the faint of heart!" Why, that's the perfect description of me!)

Jane Campion turned the book into a movie, which I haven't seen, but I want to. Because...Mark Ruffalo. That's the only reason one could need, really. Mark Ruffalo.

Last night, what I presume to be the EXTRA-EDITED, SUPER SLIMMED DOWN, BLEACHED AND LYSOLED version of In the Cut was featured on Lifetime, which David and I tuned into for about 3 minutes, until he was all, "What else is on?"

I was trying to give him the rundown on the graphic nature of book, and interesting parts. The scene we watched happened to be one of the best in the book, where the two main characters (let's just call them Mark Ruffalo and Meg Ryan) are having a drink in a bar, and Mark Ruffalo starts telling Meg Ryan all the things he can be to her.

If she wants.

"You want me to romance you, take you to a classy restaurant, no problem...."

Of course, it then becomes progressively dirtier, with a few more 'you want me to' items that I cannot in good conscience type out here.

And I was thinking, what a great ringtone that brief monologue would be. If I didn't care about manners and decorum and inappropriateness. (Which I do. Don't worry.)

It can be the ringtone in my dream world where I walk down the street with awesome red hair and drummers and Rihanna and Drake playing in the skies and Mark Ruffalo chatting me up like a naughty boy when the phone rings.


So I didn't get into my first choice nursing school. I guess there were a billion applicants for 3 spots. (The numbers may be slightly different than that in reality.)

So the fact that there were a lot of applicants for a few spots kind of makes me feel better and kind of doesn't. Better because I know that the odds were long. But worse because then I know I'm entirely unremarkable.

I'm feeling okay with this now that's it's not last Wednesday, and it's been almost a week from when I logged in and received a rejection notice telling me to go jump off a high spot because I suck and I'll never be a nurse. Never!

(That same rejection notice also told me that I need to deep condition my hair more often, go to confession already, and get my winter-worn feet some Eucerin and socks, stat!)

I'm still trying to figure out what will happen if I don't get into my other first-choice nursing school (it was a complete and total tie for first).

So this was a bit of a setback. Or at least, it feels that way. I mean, not the definitive end of the world, but certainly a solid punch to the solar plexus. And head. And a hearty kick in the rear.


We've begun reading on blood vessels as we wrap up the circulatory system. I find pathophysiology so bizarrely fascinating, I want to start a binder entitled "Crazy Body Facts To Keep You Up At Night" and fill it with all sorts items that require an anti-anxiety pill just to read.

For instance, each kilogram of excess adipose tissue requires an additional 450 miles of blood vessels.

Yes, you read that right.

2.2 lbs. of extra padding = 450 MILES of blood vessels. Which increases blood pressure and makes the heart work harder to have to pump blood all those extra miles. Of course, as I was stuffing my face with gummy bears last night, this completely slipped my mind.

During Christmas, I had approximately 2250 more miles of blood vessels than usual.

Ah, eggnog.

So delicious, but too good at paving new, unnecessary circulatory pathways in my hip flesh.

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