Monday, November 30, 2009


The human mind is a curious thing. In times of extreme stress, we can block out all but the necessities. We can become "comfortably numb" as Pink Floyd would tell us.

That's where I am today.

This morning dawned cruelly sunny and bright again today, and it took my breath away as I walked the dogs. As I have several times over the years, I found the morning walk in the woods was my time to grieve acutely, and the tears flowed without courage.

The rest of the day has been taken up with a thousand plans and preparations, tasks, diversions, phone calls. We had to pick out Kiersten's casket, the calling cards, the photos for the funeral home, the tiny pieces of jewelry where we will keep minute bits of her ashes. There was a news crew in our driveway when we arrived home. Part of the "new normal" for now, I guess. There were news crews in the driveways at my in-laws home and my father's home as well.

I was angry about that at first, but the media has, for a change, treated a tragedy with some respect. In a very odd way, this intrusion into our lives, this public grieving, has brought us some comfort.

But now, when the house is once again too quiet, I am feeling calm. Strangely so. Tomorrow, we will begin the marathon process of visiting hours, then the funeral. I expect it all to be a blur. This numbness will carry me for the time being.

God, I miss her. I miss her so much.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I have, for years, seen accounts in the paper about children who have died, suddenly and tragically. These stories have always touched me deeply, and I have always found my heart breaking for the parents of these little angels. How can a parent endure this loss?

Yesterday, as I sat with the funeral director in the kitchen, the doorbell rang. My friend, Debbie, told me that there was a reporter from the local paper there. My first reaction was anger, "Why do I have vampires in my house???". But she said she was there to tell Kiersten's story. She asked if we would let her do that.

She did a lovely job. I couldn't have asked for anyone to have treated the memory of my little girl with more respect or more caring.

This morning I went to the grocery store at the corner and picked up 15 papers. As I went to the check-out, my favorite cashier was at the counter. She looked up at me and said, "what's with all the papers?" Then she froze, and looked at the front page and back to me. "Oh my God, that's your girl!" She started to cry, and hugged me, and told me to take the papers.

So now we have gone from a private tragedy to a news item. It's the most surreal thing I've ever experienced.

The outpouring of love and caring we have received from my friends in the blogosphere, my friends on Radio Paradise, and our friends on Facebook, as well as the wonderful and rich friendships in person, has been overwhelming. You never know how many friends you have until something tragic happens.

The next few days will be a whirlwind; I'm counting on the activity to keep me numb. I don't know what we will do from there.

But I thank you all for your wishes and kind words. They will remain a comfort to me as we move through this.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My soul dies with you.

Kiersten Elise Sump (my Bug) died last night at 10:22 pm at Elyria Memorial Hospital. Officially.

Unofficially, she died in my arms at 8:55 pm at North Rec skating rink in Elyria.

Her heart just stopped beating; as much as this hurts, we probably won't ever know why.

She knew no pain, and no fear. She was gone before she hit the ice last night.

Kiersten was 9 years old. She was the best, brightest thing in my life and bringing her into this world was best thing I have ever done. I will never, ever stop missing her.

There have been times in the last 24 hours when I have wanted to join her in body, because she already has my soul with her.

We were able to donate her heart valves for transplant, so maybe someone else won't have to go through this heartache.

I need until Monday to set this up, but rather than sending flowers, please support one of the two things that Kes really cared about.

Love a stray is a no-kill shelter for cats in Avon Ohio. They place cats at PetSmart for adoption and every time Kiersten went into PetSmart, she stopped to visit the kitties. They made her smile.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
has an adopt an animal program. Kiersten's favorite animal was the gharial. Only my Bug would love a gharial. But you can make an adopt-an-animal pledge in Kiersten's memory. They'll pool the donations and put her name on the parent's list every year.

Thank you for all the wishes and prayers. They mean a lot today. They'll mean more after all the people leave and my house is quiet.


Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.

My daughter, Kiersten, is dead.

There may be sunshine in the world, but not here

Not for me.

Not ever again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Amazingly enough, we have survived another Thanksgiving Day Massa-cree here in the land of Bean. 15 for dinner. No second wave for dessert this year. (can i say yippee to that?) Daisy Mae was uncommonly kind to the Bug today, treating her to a make-over and letting her borrow Daisy's favorite suede boots.

My dad, finishing his second week of chemo, arrived early and, while he did have to take a short break for a nap after dinner, ate well and laughed much. One of our guests, Ann, who is now pushing 80, agreed to let us drive her home rather than risk a nighttime drive after 2 glasses of wine.

There were no disasters this year. In past years, we have had dishes catch fire in the oven, dishes accidentally left for dead on the back porch, things over-cook, under-cook and sometimes, despite best efforts, just come out terrible. I have had my entire family come down with Norwalk virus 1 hour before guests arrives. I have had my dishwasher break down, (totalpieceofcrapBoschdishwasherthatIpaid $650forTENYEARSAGOandthatI'vepaidthatmuchinrepairsforsincethenOMGIhateit), my sink back up and my toilet clog. I have done Thanksgiving dishes in the bathtub twice in the last ten years.

This year? Nothin'. No disasters. No fights. No bonzai run to Walgreen's for Liquid Plumr. No unexpected wave of 10pm drop-in guests after I put on my pajamas. No trips to the Emergency Room.

It almost feels like I've forgotten something.

So now it's 11:30 and the dishes are done, the food is put away, the tablecloths are in the washer and the house is utterly quiet. And cleaner than it has been in a couple of years, I think.

And I feel...Thankful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

I am a big fan of Free-Range Kids, a blog hosted by Lenore Skenazy, who reminds us that children have been self-sufficient and inquisitive since the beginning of time. They are also much more capable than we usually give them credit for.

Anyway, despite my fondness for her anecdotes, and despite how much her descriptions of hysterical, stranger-danger-addled do-gooders sound suspiciously like my mother-in-law, I have always thought that the aforementioned addled ones were outliers, or at least confined to my parent's generation.

Not so. I was at a party on Saturday, where one of the guests was discussing having driven past his old house, and how shocked he was to see a three-year-old child walk out the front door, grab a ball and head toward his back yard.

"Would YOU let your little kid walk out the front door without standing there watching him???"

I mentioned that it sounded like the child wasn't in any danger: the street was not heavily traveled, the front yard was sufficiently large that there was probably not imminent danger he'd wander into the street. He had grabbed a ball and headed for the back yard. I thought that, for a few minutes, it was probably OK.

One of the other guests piped up: "But someone could have snatched him! Kids get snatched all the time now! Perverts are everywhere!"

I casually mentioned that the incidence of child abductions by strangers was at its lowest level in 50 years. My husband, the History and Urban Studies scholar, concurred. "Besides," I said, "if you've ever had a three-year-old, you sure as hell don't want to take on someone else's !!"
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OK, Mom! I'll have fun!

"Yeah," said my husband, "we've been leaving K parked out front with the keys in her ignition for almost five years, and nobody's ever taken HER."

This, predictably, had the effect of making everyone in the room scoot their chairs about six inches away from us both.

In any event, having been regarded like I was insane, I actually started to wonder if I might be. But I don't think so. I think of all the hours that K hung out in our front yard, playing in the leaves and picking flowers, kicking her ball and riding her tricycle up and down the driveway, while I was shuttling back and forth inside and outside, keeping half an eye on her, but not sharp-eyed on her every move.

I think that our children will end up victims, most likely, because we raise them to be victims. Because we don't ever trust them to do the right thing. Because we hover and watch and make them afraid. Because we don't let them take risks and get dirty.

I just hope they treat our grandchildren with more respect.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A big, crowded couch

Well, folks, it looks like I just wasn't cut out for the NaBloPoMo. Missed a few posts in there. I'm not too broken up about it, to be honest. It's grant season, and my Superwoman cape is at the cleaners. Life goes on.

Twenty years ago, we met a couple, Joyce and Mike, who have become very close and wonderful friends. Their marriage is a bit unconventional: She is divorced once and 10 years his senior. It's a very strong marriage, however, and it's one that I admire.

Before they were married, they took the unusual step of seeing a marriage counselor for several sessions. At the time I had met them, I thought this was, frankly, weird. Why on earth would anyone spend a bunch of time pre-hashing a bunch of yet-to-be-acquired baggage, when they were in that “lovey-dovey-let’s-get-married” phase of this relationship? It just seemed like asking for trouble that just wasn’t there yet. Paying a toll for a bridge that might never be crossed

In retrospect, their strategy was brilliant. They’ve just celebrated their 25th anniversary, and really, the road here hasn’t been easy. But laying that foundation – learning what was in-bounds and what was out-of-bounds in arguments, learning how best to be supportive when times were tough, establishing the communication – has helped them come through the good times and the bad with flying colors.

With this in mind, we started family therapy on Tuesday. The kids were a bit puzzled by this, but not so much as you might think. There was the question of, “Well, but we’re not even officially a family yet. How can we be screwed up already?” To which I answered with a look that said, “Do you even have to ask that question?”

I was particularly concerned about Daisy seeing this as her “fault”. I explained to her that, yes; we were doing this because she was joining our family on a permanent basis. However, the motivation for this was not because of any shortcoming on her – or anyone’s – part.

Disclaimer: it's not all peaches and cream, however; to be completely candid, these first few months have been marked by a lot more conflict that I imaged when we started down this road.

We are doing this because we each have spent the last 15 years living very different lives. Our experiences are different. Our expectations are different. Our communication styles are different. And now we’re talking about bringing us all together, forever. It’s not too different from being in an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages can be loveless, or even violent. It’s not always like that – some arranged marriages are very happy. But the unhappily-ever-after story is common enough to give us all pause. So we’re spending some time with our version of the marriage counselor now.

I was really encouraged by Tuesday’s session. Our therapist is pragmatic, yet upbeat. She tells it like it is. Her first question was to ask each of us what the best and worst things were about our family. Interestingly, we all were pretty well-aligned about both the best and the worst. So we have a common set of expectations to start from.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us

Monday, November 16, 2009 burn

Oh the shame! I missed two days in a row.

OK, I'm not ashamed. I was crushed with these grants. But they're done now, so that's behind me.

But I'm fried now. I'll have more to say tomorrow...

Thursday, November 12, 2009



So sometimes, despite best efforts, you just can't control even the things that you think you can control.

I have these three really big grants that must be submitted next week. And despite weeks of preparation and prodding, they're both running late. I'm working on my second night of late-night writing.

I have to find a way to get these people under control. No matter how prepared I am, I can't stand on others and make them complete their assignments in a timely fashion. So the result is that I'm perpetually pulling these grants together at the last minute. It's exhausting.

I get a lot of compliments from my colleagues: "Boy, if you weren't here, we would be sunk!" "Wow! As long as we needs to raise funds, you have job security!" "Thank God you're not the type to spazz over these things!"

But to tell you the truth, I'd rather not be revered quite so much by my colleagues and get to have dinner at home on nights like this.

Next time I come up for air, somebody get me a cup of coffee, will ya?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I got nothin'

No existential crises. No victories. No defeats. No new linoleum.

I was neither praised nor shat upon today. I did not discover the cure for cancer, the secret to teleportation, or the crabby patty recipe. I did not go swimming in the deep end of the pool. Had I not shown up today, i think only my dogs would have missed me.

It was just a day.

Hopefully, tomorrow will provide us more fodder.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Daisy Mae has been here for about five months now. We have been through the Honeymoon period, where everyone made 24/7 happy noises. We went through the first post-honeymoon period, where we had lots of slamming doors and books thrown at walls, and she called me everything but a Child of God. Plenty of tears were shed by all four of us.

We have each, in turn, threatened to throw in the towel.

"You'll never be my mother!"

"I want to call her my daughter, but not if it means destroying my family."

"This wasn't the sister I wanted. She hates me!"

"I hate it here. It's like like living in a prison."

"I can't do this. It's too hard. We're never going to be a real family."

It was scary, for awhile. I found myself thinking of that old curse: "Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it."

The last few weeks, though, we've started to achieve some normalcy. The girls fight, but it's about normal sister things, like who gets the front seat and who is touching what in whose room. Chores are getting done. Homework is getting done. Dinners are completed without anyone bursting into tears, chairs being knocked over, food thrown in the sink or stereos blasting from far corners of the house. We're back to evenings spent with a movie on the couch, discussions of hair colors and shoes, planning for spring sports, dinner at Subway on the way to the dojo.

It's like normal life.

I think we can do this.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

There, but for the grace of God...

I was over at the Drug Mart this evening, picking up all the last minute, "Mom, I need this for school this week!" stuff, when I saw a notice on the board.

Taken, from my car, in this parking lot Thursday around 7:20: My laptop case, containing a Dell laptop, all my school binders, my wallet, my house keys, my insurance card, my kids' birth certificates, their school pictures from this year. Please; you can keep the laptop and the money, if that's what you want, but I cannot replace these other things and they are no use to you. Please. I need them back. I'm a struggling single mom. Cut me a little slack, will you?

Then, a name and a phone number.

When I gave birth to my daughter, K, I had a terrible time with post-partum depression. It took me by surprise, really. I'm not the depressive type. However, hormones can do some seriously crazy stuff sometimes. I remember my OB, Jeff, (a good friend and still a close colleague) said something that has stuck with me ever since.

"At least you're not alone. Can you imagine if you were single and having to go through this? Christ, I get girls come through here and I see them...I know when they leave the hospital, they have that look in their eyes, like, 'Oh my God, how am I going to do this?' And I worry about them; I really do. I have nothing but admiration for single mothers."

I remember at the time, I thought Jeff wasn't really being all that helpful for me. But PPD is short-lived in those of us who are lucky, and the lesson has given me perspective I wouldn't have had otherwise. Part of that still resonates with Jeff's words, especially tonight.

Gayle. Her name was Gayle. I sort of want to call the number and just get her address and send her some money. Just to help. I wonder if she'd accept it from me or if she'd think it was a scam of some sort. In any event, I'm feeling lucky as hell this evening. My life could have been different. I could have made one different choice or could have met a few different people, and I could be raising my kids in a crappy little apartment over by the Drug Mart, and I could be alone and struggling and being robbed of the few things I have. I could be leaving desperate notes on the bulletin board.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

I'm going to say a little prayer for Gayle this evening.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Today was a beautiful day here on the North Coast. Mid-60's sunny, breezy. Fabulous. Started the day with a 4 mile hike. Then, we finished the rest of the yard work -- leaves up, beds cleaned out, screens finally repaired from the destruction wrought by Buddy, the stray dog we took in last month.

It's great to have everything put away, but every muscle in my body hurts. Every one of them. Even my arches hurt.

But I did pull myself together long enough to make an awesome white shrimp and artichoke pizza for dinner. I'd post a picture, but it's gone already. You'll just have to used your imaginations.

Friday, November 06, 2009


They opened a sushi place next to the Drug Mart, five minutes from the house.

And it's pretty good.

Yep, we're pretty darned thrilled over here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tales of Tough Love from the Dojo

I *heart* my daughters’ karate teachers.

They are a husband and wife team – the dojo is perhaps a 10-minute drive from the house. The girls take karate on Tuesday and Thursday nights; S will be back at it on Monday and Wednesday as soon as he takes care of a couple of medical things, and I take kick-boxing on Monday and Wednesday night. We spend a lot of time at the dojo, and have gotten to know the directors (Senseis) very well. They both are in their mid-30’s and both are black belts: he a 6th degree; she a 2nd degree. They have about a dozen black belt students who help out with classes and techniques.

These people are so focused on the overall health (physical, emotional, school/grades, home and family) of their students that I just want to hug them both most days. It is like a big family there, with the more experienced students teaching and encouraging the less experienced students, a mandate to teach and learn each day, an unequivocal attention to discipline and respect and a focus on self-assurance. I wouldn’t call it “tough love” but rather “firm love”.

The Bug, who has ever been a sensitive old soul, walked into the dojo frightened of being yelled at and disciplined. Last night, she took 4 dozen falls, and got up each and every time. She performed her kata (a dance-like set of compulsory movements for each level) with strength and determination. She did 40 push-ups. On her knuckles. Her Sensei instructed her to teach her sister (Daisy Mae) the new kata, and instructed Daisy to accept her teaching with gratitude and humility. He routinely will send 7 and 8-year-old green belts (intermediate students) to “teach lessons” to teen-aged white belts who have shown too much attitude and not enough humility, as a reminder that toughness comes from the inside, and that our teachers can be found everywhere.

And Mrs Sensei kicks my butt twice a week in the mommy class.

This is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lots of stuff banging around in my head today.

I am deeply disappointed in the voters of Ohio. That's all I'll say about it.

My father got positive confirmation yesterday that he has multiple myeloma. I'm cautiously optimistic -- they've caught it as early as humanly possible and the treatments are nothing like they were even five years ago. His prognosis is excellent, even if the next several months will be very hard for him.

This means, of course, that I have to tell my sister. It'll be interesting to see if she just refuses to call me back or if she does as she did when my mom broke her leg -- call long enough to ascertain that he isn't dead, then not speak to anyone again. My dad is hoping to hear from his youngest daughter. Not looking forward to telling him, "Well, I called and told her..."

Daisy Mae has walking pneumonia. I swear, this child has the constitution of a fruit fly. We have her on antibiotics, however, so she should be OK by Monday.

As I once again got to take the big dogs out on leash today, only to have them encounter a herd of deer in the back yard, I began to understand why old people keep pocket dogs.

It's going down to 29 degrees tonight. The furnace won't be fixed until tomorrow. Brr.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ohio Issue 3: Don't gamble with our constitution's another Ohio political post. But the election is today, so hopefully I can go back to kvetching about my life again here very soon.

There's this frightening trend nation-wide for special interests to try to bypass the regular legislative processes of states by proposing to write their programs as amendments to state constitutions.

No where has this practice been more abused than here in Ohio.

This is how Ohio ended up with the most Draconian and dangerous marriage law in the nation.

Now, special interests want us to amend the constitution to allow exactly 4 casinos, all owned by the same out-of-state-developer, to be built in Ohio. This is a state that has voted down casino gambling not once, but three times, in the past. The developers have essentially "bought off" the public interests that opposed them in earlier referenda. The terms for the developers are some of the most generous in the country: the gambling licenses here are being issued for as little as 10% of what the licenses are garnering in other states. There is no guarantee that Ohioans will be hired for the purported 34,000 jobs that proponents claim will be generated by these casinos. And anyone who isn't "in the club" -- cities like Lorain and Youngstown -- don't have a chance to come back later and ask the voters for their own casinos.

But this isn't about casino gambling. And this really isn't about the number or placement or ownership of casinos.

This is a bad idea for two reasons: When programs, policy and practice become part of the state constitution, they become very difficult to modify -- a 3/5th majority of the legislature must approve such a measure. They also cannot cannot be reviewed for constitutionality. When a policy becomes part of the constitution, it's constitutionality cannot be challenged, except at the Federal level. But more importantly, it's about cheapening the constitution. This document defines what is most important to the people in this state about how they are to be governed.

It shouldn't be about ensuring that a small number of people make an obscene amount of money.

So, for the same reasons that I am voting no on Issue 2 (below), I am also voting NO on Issue 3. Nearly every major newspaper in the state has come out against it, as have both of our US senators. I urge you to do the same.

Monday, November 02, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

I have several hard-core blogging friends who are doing NaBloPoMo this year -- an abbreviation that, by turns, causes me to either envision Mushmouth from the Cosby Kids or a Hawaiian Trigger Fish.

So the deal is this. I have to write something -- anything -- once a day for the month of November. I am going to give this a try this year, mostly because the pressures of job and home have caused me to stop writing almost entirely for the last six months or so. And I miss it. So hopefully this will force me to start using that part of my brain again.

Yeah, I know; I already missed Sunday. So sue me.

And away we go....

If you haven't already tuned in from looking at my Facebook page, please check out Michael Ruhlman's post about why he's not voting for Issue 2 here in Ohio. Tomorrow, I'll tell you why you shouldn't vote for Issue 3 either. (hint: the theme is eerily similar)