Monday, November 29, 2010

The Lesson

"Ok, for real; we're just not celebrating Thanksgiving anymore.  So done with this.  Let's just leave the country from now on."

Kate and I were standing in the parlor at the funeral home, where we were at calling hours for yet another extended family member who died Thanksgiving day.  "Seriously:  my birth mom, then the Bug, now Mary.  Who's going to be left?  Thanksgiving is now, officially, my least favorite holiday."

Others in the room echoed the sentiment, among comments about our needing to circumvent the formalities and start renting out funeral homes for a shared Thanksgiving meal every year.  I heard more than one, "So we're supposed to feel thankful?"

It's a tough dichotomy, feeling so much pain and heartache during a holiday when we are supposed it be counting our blessings.  It was all I could do to hold my head up through dinner with our parents on Thursday.  Not for the first time in the last year, I heard family members question what lesson we're supposed to learn from all this loss.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what that lesson should be.

The lesson, I think, is about being able to look around, past our heartaches, and find reasons why we should still be thankful.   Things like the warm houses where we can gather to mourn as a community, share food we've prepared, and comfort each other.  We are not alone.  We are not cold, or hungry, or frightened, like so many in this world are. 

That I have a teenager who needs attention and guidance and patience and discipline.  She keeps me grounded and focused outside of myself.  She keeps Mr. and me from retreating into our own individual grief and becoming yet another failed marriage between two bitterly-damaged people, like so many others do after losing a child.

That Mr. and I have three sets of parents, and a much-beloved grandmother, all of whom need our attention and love, and who are equally glad to return both.  There are so many others who don't have parents they can care for and who care for them.

That we live in a nation where we can call our representatives "whackaloons" and not go to prison for it.  And that we have ready access to the tools to trumpet freely our whackaloonery.  We are not kept silent.  We are not isolated.

Mostly, though, that we have friends, neighbors, and family members to share our joys, hear our complaints, and to allow us to mourn our lost loved ones.  That we do not need to bury our own souls alongside the ones we've bid farewell, because we cannot bear to face them alone.  We don't have to face them alone.  We have each other.

I think that's the lesson:  To learn to see clearly, even through our tears, all the reasons we still have to be thankful.  If we can give thanks now, we will give thanks doubly so when our blessings are more abundant.

"Despite what you think, you are blessed.  Don't take it for granted.  Because it all can be taken away.  So give thanks." 

It's a few days late, but Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

1 Year

Dear Bug,

It's been a year since I last saw your sweet smile, held your hand, smelled your hair.  It's been a year since I last sang "You Are My Sunshine" as you drifted off to sleep.

I cannot believe we have survived this long without you in our lives.

This morning, we went back to the ice rink.  Your grandma and I brought flowers.  I put a picture of you on the glass and we taped the flowers to the boards near where you died.  There was hockey practice going on -- do you remember all those cold Saturday mornings at the rink? -- and while I was leaned against the glass, saying a prayer, all the midget players shot pucks at me. 

Sometimes, a little comic relief is a good thing.

Wednesday, I finally screwed up enough courage to go see Serena. It's been a long time.  I really felt like I let her down, but the last time I saw her, it hurt me so much I didn't think I could be around her without my heart shattering into a million little pieces.  She looks good; she says she got straight A's this quarter in middle school.  She's grown, too -- she's almost as tall as you were.  But she's doing OK; she really is.  Her dad's working again.  We had a really good talk.  I brought her a birthday present.

When you died, I took your DS and hid it in my night stand.  Your dad wanted me to give it to Daisy Mae, but I said no; it was your most prized possession and I was going to keep it.  I know I wasn't making very much sense, but somehow, I knew I needed to save it for something.

When I left to go to Serena's house, I went back and grabbed the DS out of my nightstand and put it in my purse, next to the game I had bought for her birthday present.  When she and I were finished talking; I stopped and looked her in the eye, "You don't have a DS anymore, do you?"

She hesitated, "Mine broke."  I took your DS out of my purse, and handed it to her. 

"There is only one person in this world who Kiersten would have given this to, and that's you.  You know, it was her favorite possession."

Serena hugged me so hard, I thought I would cry. 

"It's my favorite possession, now.  Thank you."

Last night, the light in your window burned out.  Exactly one year from the day you died.  I think it's a sign that you want us -- me, especially -- to start to move on.  I won't be easy; hanging onto you has given me comfort.  But it might be time to start living for myself again, instead of living each day reaching back towards you.  Not all at once, but a step at a time.

Thank you again, my beautiful girl, for a thousand lovely, funny, happy memories.  Each day that you were in my life was a joy. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Bug

September 18, 2000 - November 27, 2009

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And the worst part is, you can't even buy any fleas!

Well, now that we've all finished out little chorus of "Getting to Know You", lets move on to some lighter fare, shall we?

I have a confession to make.  I despise flea markets.

The very act of rummaging through stuff that other people are interested in throwing out, for the purposes of buying it and taking it home, is deeply puzzling to me.  It's not that I have an issue with used stuff; I find eBay and Craig's list very useful.  But in those places, I say "I need one of these things here" and the web site says "Lucky you!  Herbert436 in Duluth Minnesota has one of those things and wants to sell it to you."  Simple.  Expedient.  And I never have to know if Herbert436 has teeth or not.

Not so with flea markets.  These are the People of WalMart, only the People are also working behind the counters. As it happens, I live with a man who LOVES flea markets, and who comes from a long line of flea-market-loving people.  So occasionally, I grit my teeth and follow him in.  I normally spend my time on these excursions shaking my head and muttering to myself.  Which makes me fit right in, I guess.

When in groups, however, I have an opportunity to engage in a game called, "WTF is that???", in which the object of the game is to find the cheapest, cheesiest, tackiest, or most bizarre item in the building.  Ah, now it's not simply wandering in an addle-pated way down the aisles.  NOW, this is a competition, and there is a goal.  NOW, I can embrace the flea market.

And so this is now I began my Sunday.

Despite this being a very small market, we were blessed with several excellent contenders for the WTF award.  Can you guess what won?

Really, can you have too many pairs of yellow platform shoes?

Book entry #1:  I think Luck and Pluck are pedophiles

The Bobbsey Twins meet Ahmed the Slave Trader

I don't even know what to say about this one...except, if you have you use the word "zany" in the description, it probably isn't...
I left this one larger because it won the "No, really; we meant it to look like that" award.  For the Venetian glass clown

What flea market is complete without a Velvet Elvis painting?

She wishes everyone would stop looking at her boobs

This was my pick for winner.  It's a touch lamp.  With a painting of native American children about to be attacked by a demented angel.  How would you like to roll over in the morning and see THAT next to your bed???
 The picture I wanted to get, but couldn't without being rude, was the mobile made of empty Coors Light beer cans, labeled "Redneck Wind Chimes"  Unfortunately, it was not eligible to win, as it was not actually for sale.

I think that, with this game in mind, I may actually survive three or four markets a year.  So stay tuned.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No; it's not like Crack.

My doctor wants to take away my estrogen.

OK, so I normally don't get into health issues -- let alone my plumbing issues -- here.  Fear not; we're not going into the TMI zone.  At least, not about my plumbing.

But holy heck!  My estrogen???  C'mon, man!  Clearly, she hates me.

But here's the thing:  I'm having some issues relating to the plumbing that may be foreshadowing Big Changes to Come.  But it's tough to tell, because I've been on the Pill for nearly my entire adult life.  But in the last year, my blood pressure has crept up a bit, likely due to multiple factors we need not review here.  Add to that the other, more delicate issues and it says only one thing:  Get off the estrogen, Sister!

This sucks for me on multiple levels.  Mostly, it scares me beyond reason.  Not because I'm an addict or anything; I mean, estrogen is not like crack. But it's been my friend for a long time and in a lot of important ways.

Which gets to the "TMI" portion of the program.

This is about postpartum depression, which is one of the most under-reported, misunderstood and stigmatized forms of mental illness.

According to a number of studies that I will not cite properly here, about 15% of all pregnancies result in  portpartum depression, ranging from garden-variety "baby blues" to full-blown postpartum psychosis.  That's about 950,000 women a year in the US.  Which is a lot.  Like, 2% of all women in the country have this disorder at any given time.  That's more than sprain their ankles each year.  That's more than are diagnosed with breast cancer in a given year.

Are you surprised?  I'm not.  I was one of those women.

After the Bug was born, I struggled tremendously with feeling like I wanted to be a mother.  On any given day, my thoughts would range from "Woe is me" to, "Hey, I'm gonna jump off the roof, mkay?" to "Hey, how about I take the baby and the two of us go drive off a bridge somewhere" to"I have a parasite and it's sucking out my life through my breasts."  I cried constantly.  I didn't sleep.  Ever.  When I had the knife in my hand, with the thought of removing the offending breasts from my body, my husband took the step of keeping someone in the house with me 24/7 while he went to work.  Hoo, yeah.  It was bumpy ride.

Enter my therapist and ethinyl estradiol. About a month after the Bug was born, she put me back on birth control pills. 

36 hours later, it was like someone flicked a switch.   I suddenly realized I had this incredibly cool little baby, and she was beautiful, and her little fingers and toes were adorable, and breast-feeding was totally awesome, and lookit how cute she is with her little face all squooshed up like that and...well you get the picture.  I went from complete basket-case to absolutely loving being a mother.  Literally overnight.  So simple.  But what if I hadn't had the presence of mind to ask for it?

This leads me to wonder about young women who don't have proper support from their families and friends.  Who give birth alone, frightened, and with those demons circulating around.  How do they get the help they need?  Who keeps them from acting on those horrible thoughts?  I am amazed and grateful to know that we have safe haven laws in this state and others, but I wonder how many of those abandoned children would have been able to stay with their mothers, if only their mothers had extra support and perhaps some hormone replacement.

I don't know why PPD is so much more prevalent in this country than others -- researchers cite, BPA, other environmental factors, the breakdown of the extended family, and a host of other potentially-contributing factors.  I do know that as a society, we need to stop sweeping this condition under the rug and start giving these women the support they need.

I've been off the pill a few times in the intervening years, when we were trying to get pregnant.  The world didn't come to an end.  But the thought that it's time to bid them adieu, perhaps for a long haul, is fairly frightening.  I sure hope I don't have to unpack that case of crazy again.  Time will tell. In the meantime, I hope she gives me back my estrogen soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Last Hurrah

I think this last weekend was the last of the beautiful fall weather for this year.  Saturday was truly an Indian Summer day, with temps in the mid 60's and a lovely warm breeze.  I managed to sneak in a short hike between dropping Daisy off at the theater to get ready for closing night production and rushing home to make taco dip for the cast party. 

Sunday was the last of the yard work, a pot of soup and a bonfire with good friends and draft beer.  

These days are what we live for here on the North Coast.  They are filled with college football, garden work, bonfires, clam bakes and the smell of fallen leaves.  They give us one last, crisp taste of apple cider before we have to settle for a long winter of hot tea and snowbound nights.

Farewell, autumn, with your amber eyes and your sun-kissed skin.  Hello, Winter, wrapped in blue and white.  I hope your touch is gentle this year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I am a Lighthouse

I started this morning with The Lighthouse's Tale by Nickel Creek.  Absolutely beautiful song, although the story it tells is achingly sad.  The chorus speaks to me on a lot of levels:

And the waves crash around me,
the sand slips out to sea,
and the wind that blows reminds me of what has been
and what can never be.

Last night was the opening of Up the Down Staircase at Daisy's school.  It's her first drama production and she was on the stage crew for this one.  The director's choice for staging was an interesting one; in place of the vignettes that characterize the movie version, she created a Laugh-In style set that featured doors that opened with the actors' heads appearing inside to deliver lines.  Effective, and an interesting way to "shake up" a production many of us know by heart.  The young man playing Joe Ferone was excellent, although he affected such a strong Marlon-Brando-like accent that I kept waiting for him to start sticking dental cotton in his mouth, à la the Saturday Night Live "Godfather" skit.  All in all, it was a wonderful evening and I was very glad to get back into the groove of school activities.

Drama is good for kids, I think.  It teaches them to, in the words of Miss Sylvia Barrett, "reach beyond their grasp" and explore not only what they are but what they are not.  Like sports, it teaches teamwork and cooperation in a way that helps prepare kids for the real world.  And they are generally really good kids, with parents who are involved.  Mr and I were both drama geeks.  I think Daisy will do well here.  I am proud of her work in the crew, and look forward to lots more productions over the next several years.

I was surprised by my reaction to the curtain call, however.  As the pairs came on stage for their bows, forming the traditional ensemble line, I found myself starting to cry.  As the leads took their place and the entire cast raised their clasped hands to take their final bow, I looked over at Mr. B.  His eyes were also filled with tears and I knew we were thinking the same thing:  The Bug would have been in drama.  She would have been an actor, perhaps a lead, having absorbed years of informal coaching from us both.  And we were struck again with what has been and what can never be.  I wonder, sometimes, how many more of these moments we will encounter; whether every milestone and happy event in Daisy's life will be tinged with just a hint of hidden regret that we will do all of these things with one child instead of two.  And I hope that I can keep that regret hidden -- it would be a shame indeed to let Daisy see the sadness in our eyes at every turn.

I am a lighthouse
worn by the weather and the waves.
And though I am empty,
still I warn the sailors on their way.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chapter 6: In which I take it out on others...

Driving down Carnegie Boulevard yesterday, I saw a woman with her three children on the sidewalk.  She was bent over the youngest child, who looked to be perhaps 2 or 3 years old.  She was screaming at him; my windows were closed so I couldn't hear her.  Then, she took her tote bag and swung it back and into him, which pushed him into the brick wall he was standing against.  She swung again, then cuffed the child in the head.  The other two children were standing by, clearly scared.

Although I was in the center lane and the traffic was heavy, I stopped the car and rolled down the passenger window, furious, screaming,


She retorted without looking up,



The traffic around me started to honk and I started up, but as I rolled away I heard her yell, "WHO THE F**K DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, B***H??"

Who indeed?

I was blinded with tears of rage.  Why does she get to keep her child, when mine was taken away?  I was a good parent!  I loved that little girl with all my heart and I made sure she knew it every single day!  Was she a bit spoiled?  Maybe.  But she knew she was cherished, which was more important.  It's so unfair!  Why do all the "bad" parents get all the kids they want, and then some?  Of course she doesn't deserve that child!  If I can't have my child, why should she get a child she clearly can't parent??  Why did God take MY baby?? IT'S SO UNFAIR!!!  I cried and raged all the way home.

But really, who the hell did I think I was?

Who knows why she was yelling at the child?  Maybe he tried to run into the street.  No; it's never OK to hit a child that way, but who was I to tell her she didn't deserve her child?

The truth was that I missed the Bug, and I felt like a victim, and I lashed out.  I think I wanted someone, anyone, to hurt as much as I do.

I feel terrible.  Yeah, she fought back and acted tough, but I know full well those words will echo in her ears for a long time.  I only hope in time they stop making her angry and perhaps make her think to treat her children better.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where is Bill Cosby when we need him?

Huh?  Who is that?
It's the Lord, Noah 

Noah, I want you to build an Ark

What's an Ark?

(from Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Guy...Right)

I respect the rights of all Americans to believe whatever cockamamie thing they want to believe.  Seriously.  I may decry Young Earth Creationists and their willful blindness to scientific evidence, but I won't insist they believe differently, so long as they don't push their views on me or anyone else.  I also respect the rights of complete atheists, who believe that all that happens here is completely controlled by us and that when we escape this mortal coil, we become nothing but food for worms.  They don't share my belief in the immortal soul, and that's cool, so long as they don't insist I dispel my own belief in some plane of existence that transcends this place.

It's all good.

It's all good, that is, until religion starts to influence public policy, especially on things like education and energy, which affect all of us now and well into the future. 

Enter John Shimkus

Mr. Shimkus is a Republican (seriously; was there any doubt?) from Illinois who insists that Global Climate Change is a myth and will not cause us any long-term harm, because God promised Noah he was done messing with us after the Great Flood.  As a result, he claims, we should continue to carry on as we please and not pay attention to whether our actions have any effect on the environment.

Seriously. I can't make this stuff up.

And no; that link will not be taking you to The Onion.  The dude is serious.

So like I said, he has the right to believe what he wants.  But here's where I am getting a little nervous:  Congressman Shimkus wants to lead the House Committee on Energy and Commerce!  To which I say, "Holy Carbon Footprint, Batman!"  I mean, even if he's right:  even if God is going to save the planet from burning up into a French's Fried Onion, doesn't it make sense to try to take care of the place between now and the Deus Ex Machina rescue scene?  And criminy; what if he's wrong?  What if the authors of Genesis, through the generations of oral tradition that preceded the actual commitment to papyrus of the Enlightened Word of God, might have left off a key clause, like,

"...Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though all inclinations of his heart are evil from childhood and never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done, unless you really really screw up again, and then I'm kicking you all to the curb."

I'm reading that covenant over and over again, people, and I don't see anything that stipulates that God is obligated to save our sorry butts from our own stupidity.    I think He just promised He wouldn't flood us again.  Am I missing something here?

The bottom line is this:  Do we really want our lawmakers designing energy policy based on a 5000-year-old myth?  Whose myth do we believe?

Are you willing to take that chance?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Re-finding my bliss...or at least giving it a chance to re-surface

I have always been an outdoor bliss baby.

In the times when I have felt most stressed, most helpless, most in need of centering, I have always found solace in the outdoors.  A hike in the woods can calm my mind when nothing else can.  We are blessed with about 15 miles of semi-improved (read:  There are blazes on the trees, and someone has moved the biggest of the fallen branches out of the way) trails a five-minute drive from the house.  These traverse woodland, meadow, marsh and creekside terrains, with abundant wildlife to match each.  If I pick the right combination of trails, I can get a fabulous 90-minute work-out, and see deer, pheasants, rabbits, egrets, herons, ducks, and fox along the way, as well as more songbirds than I can recount or even identify.

In the last year, I have forgotten how much I love them.

The Bug loved hiking, too, although I suspect that no small amount of that was a daughter's desire for quality alone time with her mother. We spent hours together, exploring those trails.  I haven't been back since her death.  In my exhaustion and sheer inability to remember that there was happiness in the world before she  entered it, I have associated hiking with the absence of my precious daughter and in doing so, I have done my mental health a tremendous disservice.

My friend, Kate, told me Saturday night that she is beginning to worry about me.  It's no secret that my much beloved husband has struggled horribly with the Bug's death, and the stress of watching him suffer has compounded my own (perhaps-too-) carefully-managed grief.  "I feel like we're losing you, sister.  Time to make a change."

So tonight, about an hour before dusk, I snagged Daisy Mae and dragged her out on a hike with me.

She complained, as any teen might, of my pace through sometimes uneven terrain.  "Mom, I'm not exactly Ms. Outdoorswoman here!".  I asked her if she was really interested in being out-done by a fat old broad like me.  She set her teeth and kept going.  ;)  But as we entered the clearing between the thicket and the marsh, we got our payoff:  A doe with her two spring fawns, munching away at the last of the green reeds.  They were beautiful and appeared to ignore us entirely.  Mom kept one eye on us, however, tail flicking as the three of them were intent on getting dinner finished before the sun set completely.  As they walked off, I kept Daisy where she was for a moment, explaining in a barely audible voice about the crepuscular habits of deer, raccoons and other wildlife in this region.  I told her we were being watched.

As we listened to the reeds and brush around us, we could hear four more large deer moving around, including the 12-point buck who rules that part of the woods.  Although I couldn't see him, he could see us, and he finally let us know of his displeasure at our presence in his territory with a snort, and a stamp.  My tough-girl daughter grabbed my arm, in excitement and just a touch of fear.  I took her hand and we backed carefully out of the clearing.

"Mom, that was really cool, but freaky.  I was afraid that deer was going to kill us."

"That was really cool, and I promise I won't let you get killed by a deer.  Kind of a stupid way to die, dontcha think?"

We spent the rest of the hike sharing stories and thoughts as the darkness deepened.  She didn't let go of my hand until we emerged in the clearing that serves as a parking lot: tired and chilly but clear-minded and smiling.

So maybe it's time to return to the woods.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Just a thought for today

A friend the other day reminded me of a favorite Anton Chekhov quote:

Any idiot can face a crisis, it is this day to day living that wears you out

Yep.  I hear that.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What we get paid for...

I had lunch the other day with a long-time friend and work colleague, who just took a new job with a multi-national.

"They seem to love me", he said, "but I don't feel like I'm working nearly hard enough."

I thought about it for a minute, "So maybe you're finally reaching that part of your career where you get paid for what you know, rather than for how fast you can run."

This very statement stopped me dead in my tracks.  When we are young, we assume we get paid to work insanely hard, to be faster, brighter, stronger and more persevering than our colleagues.

As we get older, though, that changes.  As some point, we get paid for other things.

My friend, Joyce, said she believes that pay is directly proportional to stress:  Low-stress jobs don't pay well, in her opinion; high-stress jobs do.  I asked her if she'd ever been a daycare provider.  ;)

Another friend thinks that pay is linked to influence.  It's who you know.

Increasingly, however, I'm coming to realize that you really can be paid for experience and knowledge, work less hard, with less stress (or perhaps manage it better) and get paid more money.  I had another colleague today ask me, "Where did you learn how to do all this stuff???"  My answer?  "I got kicked in the head every day for years.  I decided I wanted to learn how to avoid that." 

I think we grow up with this idea that working harder is better; that the proverbial cake is a lie.  But it seems to not be bearing out.  I'm encouraged by this.

Our parents have known this for years, I suspect, and we simply haven't heard their lessons.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Big-Girl Pants

I am not yet ready to pour out my sorrow over yesterday's elections here.  But I will at some point. 

Some days, the world makes you put on your big-girl pants and just deal with it.  And not always in the ways that you expect.

I seem to have a lot of those days lately.

Yesterday was election day, and as I alluded to in my preamble, I was deeply unhappy with the outcome.  This will, of course, result in many more days of wearing big-girl pants in the future.

However, that's not what made me put them on yesterday.  

My cat, Hoover, is getting rather long in the tooth.  As is common in cats he has developed high blood pressure and resultant kidney failure.  We hospitalized him 10 days ago, and he's been on IV fluids since then.  He was OK while he was hospitalized, but each time we took him off the IV, he stopped eating again and declined quickly.  The vet and I talked Monday and it became pretty clear to me that it was time to say goodbye.

I arrived at the office yesterday, having played out the events in my mind and having cried my eyes out for several hours.  Hoovie has been my buddy for 14 years.  I had screwed up my courage to say goodbye to my little buddy.  But then the vet surprised me by saying that Hoover rallied overnight, started eating robustly, and seemed to have decided to stick around.  I was flabbergasted.  I was not prepared for this.

Once I left the vet's office, kitteh in hands, I surprised myself by completely falling apart.  Having lost my adrenaline, I sobbed harder than if I had actually lost the cat.

Last night at 7:00 was the All Souls Day mass to honor everyone in our parish who passed away in the last year.  They planned to light a candle for Kiersten and I planned to be there to receive it and take it home.  I saw this as an important part of my grieving process.  Due to a lot of things going on here in the Land of Bean, I was to be the solitary representative from our family.  As I have discussed here before, grieving is a very active process for me.  In the interest of remaining functional for the rest of the world, I am careful about making time for rituals and other "safe" opportunities to grieve in an acute way.  I was prepared for it to be hard, but I was almost looking forward to the emotional release of the evening.

And then Daisy Mae came home from a shopping trip, clutching her side.  Shortly thereafter, she dropped to her knees, sobbing with pain.  It was 5:30.  

At 7:00, I was still at the hospital ER with Daisy, awaiting the results from the CT scan that would later reveal her debilitating pain was the result of too much teen-ager fried food and not enough fiber.  

She looked miserable, "Mom, I'm so sorry you're missing mass.  I know it was important to you."

I took a deep breath.  "It's OK, baby; I don't need a mass to remember Kiersten.  She's in my heart 24/7.  Your health is more important than any grieving ritual at this point."  I meant what I said, although inside, my heart was breaking in yet another small way.

Yesterday, I was reminded anew that life is for the living,  It's not for the faint of heart, however, so bring your big-girl pants.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

V O T E !!

I don't even care who your vote for.

(OK, that's a lie; I have really, really strong opinions about who should and shouldn't be handling our affairs, but that's not the point today).

Midterm elections bring out the most radical in our society, and that's not how it should be.  We shouldn't just get the haters out on election day in years not divisible by 4.

Every vote counts, every time.

Especially yours.

Do it.  It'll make you powerful.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The reason I couldn't attend the Rally to Restore Sanity... (warning: jargon below)

...even though I absolutely, desperately wanted to...

Every year, I have the honor and pleasure to speak at the Science and Technology Forum for the Scholarship of Entrepreneurial Engagement program, sponsored by Ashland University.    This program brings high school students from across the region here together to talk about how they can combine the best of technology and business NOW, before they learn about all the stuff we say they can't do.  These are bright, motivated students, although not all of them are your garden-variety honors kids.  I love them, because they are not satisfied with merely doing well; these kids really do want to shake up the world as we know it.

One of the movies they show each year is called "Shift Happens".  It describes how much the world has changed, not just since we were kids, but since these kids were kids.  We now generate more information in 18 months, for example, than the world did in the previous 5000 years.  Out knowledge and technology doubling time is now six months, which means that, for students entering college today, 75% of what they learned as a freshman will be out of date by the time they are juniors.  Crazy stuff.

Saturday morning, I got to teach these kids a bit of introduction to regenerative medicine.  They are smart:  there is no "Heebie-Jeebie-Embryonic-Stem-Cell-Panic" going on here.  These kids understand the power of growth factors and bioscaffolds and adipose stem cells (yes; your fat makes stem cells.  lots of them.  your fat does make more fat; it wasn't your imagination.  don't you feel better now?).  They can wonder aloud whether donor-specific immune tolerance induction (tricking the body into thinking a transplant actually belongs to you) will completely restore the cancer-fighting capacity of the immune system, versus long-term immune suppression drugs for transplant recipients.  They can draw a line between induced pluripotency (an alternative to using embryonic stem cells that involves turning your cells essentially into mock embryonic cells) and cloning and debate the ethics.  It's a blast, and talking with these students gives me hope for our future.

It may have done more to restore my sanity than any trip to see Messieurs Stewart and Colbert. 

But I still would have liked to see Father Guido.

P.S.  Tomorrow is Election Day.  If it was important to you to vote in 2008, it's just as important to vote this year.  Get your butt out there.