Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Whatever your faith, whatever your circumstance, this night is meant for us to stop, breathe, and remember what is most important.  I hope each of you is with someone you love, in spirit if not in presence.  If you are stopping in to read this, chances are you have touched my life in the last year, and so I am thankful for you.  My love is with you this night.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What makes us American.

Today, President Obama signed the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law.

I wish it would suddenly fix the economy.  It won't.

I wish it would end these intractable wars we're in (see one of the main reasons for our economic woes, above).  It won't do that, either.

But it will begin to demonstrate that we are who we say we are:  a nation that values tolerance, justice and human rights.  That's a good start.

Bravo, Mr. President, and the members of Congress who had enough personal integrity to vote for this bill.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Run-up

You have to wonder about a day that starts off by setting fire to your underpants.

I always take my underthings into the bathroom with me when I shower.  It's a habit I developed when the Bug was little; she had no sense of boundaries and it was not uncommon for me to come out of my bathroom and into my bedroom, to find her sitting there wanting to discuss the latest developments in the world of Pokemon.  Or perhaps to debate why she was starting to believe her dad's theory that I was, in fact, a reptile.

Yesterday morning, I accidentally grabbed two pairs of underpants; leaving one on the counter while I donned the second.  My bathroom is small, and gets pretty foggy, and because Mr. gets up several hours after I do, I keep the door closed while I'm in there getting ready in the morning.  As a result, I normally need to use my hair dryer to de-fog the mirror.  Rather than shutting it off, while I combed and gelled my hair, I left it running -- the hair dryer is getting old and it won't re-start if I shut it off -- in the (dry) sink.

I began to smell smoke and looking down, took note that my gonch had slipped off the counter into the sink and, under the influence of the hair dryer, had commenced to smoldering.  I grabbed the flaming underpants, only to realise that they were, in fact, hot.  I know this may have occurred to the rest of you earlier, but it was 5:40 in the morning and not all of my neurons fire at that hour.  I burned the bejeebers out of my index finger, which had the misfortune to make a connection with the then-molten waistband of my now-former underthings.

 I spent much of the rest of the day attempting to create a haiku to commemorate the event. 

Yeah, so that doesn't have anything to do with Christmas.  I should get out of the habit of writing titles first.


I've been addressing my inner control freak in therapy lately.  I recognize that my compulsive need to control those things that I can control is the direct result of not having been able to control the one thing that meant the most to me.  But it goes deeper than that, and we can explore this later.  For now I'll say that for the first time, I'm getting the message that "getting my control freak on" is probably not a bad thing.  So there.

The problem, of course, is that I'm trying to do too much for Christmas and I'm planning, planning, planning the days running up to it and external things (weather, my husband's absence, sewing machine needles, cold-process soap curing characteristics and flaming underpants) aren't cooperating.  There are times I wish I was the kind of person who could swing through Big Lots on December 23rd and buy six each of four things and hand them out with a kiss and be done with it.

Last night, I read the Gospel of Luke, which describes the nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem.  I came to realise that Mary's day wasn't exactly going as planned.  I'm pretty sure she didn't turn to Joseph and say, "You know, honey, let's just chill out about this whole birth plan; I'll just find a nice pile of straw, we'll pop out this kid and order a pizza.  It'll be just fine." 

She had lost control of everything she thought she knew; pregnant without her consent, wandering in a strange town, nowhere comfortable to have her baby, no idea what the future would hold for them, and probably pretty freaked out about this whole visitation by the Archangel Gabriel.  But in the end she did end up giving birth on a pile of straw, and while there was no pizza, things did turn out just fine.

Better than just fine, in fact.

Take the Bible for what you will:  the enlightened word of God or a wonderful mythology.  No judgments from me, either way.  But whatever else you think, there's a lot of wisdom there.

Hope your Christmas Run-Up is just fine.

Confidential to R.D.:  Thank you for putting your trust in me.  I can't make this not hurt for you, but I can at least warn you what's around the next corner.  I'm honored that you're letting me do that.  Peace.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Archangel

Sunday, April 11, 2004.

I stumbled into the office in an allergic haze and pulled my computer out of my laptop case, stabbing the power button with my finger before I headed downstairs to make coffee.  I had been up most of the night, working on a grant, and had forgotten to take my allergy pills before I fell into bed.

When I came upstairs 10 minutes later, coffee in hand, I was surprised to see that my laptop hadn't finished booting; it just hummed to a blank screen.  I hit the power button again, and noticed for the first time that my keyboard was wet.  It was then that my husband entered the room.  "Man, it smells like cat piss in here!"

My cat, Hoover, had somehow managed to balance himself on the edges of my open laptop case, and then urinate into the vents in the back of my computer, effectively flooding the machine.

This did not come as a surprise to me.  It did, however, horrify the manager of the computer core at work, causing him to don a pair of rubber gloves before taking the machine from my hands Monday morning, as I begged him to save my grant files.

Over the last fourteen years, Hoover has urinated on nearly everything I own, including my favorite $200 silk Stuart Weitzman pumps.  The things he hasn't urinated on, he has puked on.  At least twice a day.  He eats my house plants.  As a kitten, he used to fish my stockings out of laundry baskets and shred them. 

Why on Earth would I keep a cat like this?

Hoover is a Russian Blue, a breed known for their lush fur and quirky personalities.  The Russian name for the breed is the Archangel, and like the Angel Gabriel, Hoover begins each day with a glorious announcement of the previous night's events.  He is possessed of a gentleness of nature that I have never seen in a cat, before or since.  Hoover has the soul of a poet.  He will lay on my lap for hours, belly-up, and will allow me to roll his paw pads between my fingers like worry beads.  He waits, patiently, for me to acknowledge his presence when I get home from work, and then head-butts me and purrs.  He licks the tears off my face when I cry.  He hugs me when I pick him up, wrapping his body around my neck and shoulder.  Until a few years ago, he could jump three times his height to catch a feather on a string or a cat-nip mouse.  He loves to sit next to me while I sort laundry, hoping that I will drop articles of clothing on him and give him the fun of wriggling back out of the bottom of the pile.  He fetches.  He somersaults.  He is an awesome cat.

For a few years, poor Hoover was the unwilling recipient of the amorous attentions of my dog, Angus.   He accepted this with as much humor and good grace as a cat can muster, just before trying to rip the dog's face off. He puts the two younger cats in their places as only the "old man" can do.  He has fostered a life-long friendship and romance with Mudge, my 18-year-old calico who, at 5 pounds 9 ounces, is the undisputed alpha cat in the house. Seeing them sleep together is a comfort, no matter how I feel.

This morning, we said good-bye to Hoover.  His kidneys have been failing for some time, due in part to  a  terrible bout of urinary tract disease as a young adult, and we have probably held onto him a little longer than we should.  He was ready.  He purred a little, but didn't fight me.  He left this world in peace, wrapped in my arms and assisted by our gentle, kind and most caring veterinarian. 

Thank you for being my friend, Hoover.  I hope that cat heaven is wonderful.  I will miss you.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Some random thoughts for this week

No, I've not given up blogging; I'm just on an extended business trip that is mostly destroying my will to live.  I used to love business travel.  Now I hate it. 

As a result, we don't have anything particularly cogent for tonight.  Just a few random thoughts:

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to remarkable young man on my flight to Atlanta on Sunday.  Sometimes, we see in the next generation a reason to feel hopeful.  So to Andrew, in seat 7A:  I salute you!  Remember, if you do your job well, I won't have to work so hard at mine.  So I'm counting on you.

Every time I go to Orlando in the winter, they have a record-breaking cold snap that arrives the day I do and ends the day I leave.  I'm the Snow Miser.  Who knew?

My conference the first part of this week was on the Disney resort property, so I couldn't help but try to avail myself of a little of the magic while I was there.  I made my first trip to Disney when I was 30, and for me, it was as magical then as I think it would have been if I had been 8 years old.  When I was pregnant with Kiersten, I remember being at Epcot Center for the Millennial Parade.  There was a little girl seated on the other side of the parade route, who looked exactly as I imagined at the time Kiersten would look at the age of six.   I remember that looking at her filled me with a combination of excitement, expectation and intense sadness.  I cried through most of the parade. 

I was wrong about how Kiersten would look.  But last night I saw a dozen different children running through Downtown Disney, each caught out of the corner of my eye, who looked so much like Kiersten that I was finally driven to flee the property in tears.  By the time I reached the car, I was choking on my sobs.  I have few regrets.  Not having a chance to take my baby to the Magic Kingdom was one of them.   We often think we have a lifetime to experience things.  And we do.  But sometimes that lifetime isn't as long as we think it will be. 

I am looking forward to going home this weekend and getting the Christmas decorations put up.  I hope that Mr. Bean and Daisy help.  I hate decorating by myself.

I really like Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.  I sang Ooo La La in the Karaoke bar last night.  (lol)

This afternoon, on my way from Dulles Airport to the hotel where I'm staying, we passed Arlington Cemetery.  There was a funeral going on for one of our service members.  They were on a small hilltop, and they set off the 21-gun salute, just as we were driving by.  It was beautiful and desperate and dignified all at once.  And somewhere in there, a mother was saying good-bye to her child.  My heart was with her, for a moment.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chapter 7, in which I fail to "make the noise"

There's nothing like taking your car to the shop, after it's been making a "noise" for awhile, and having it run perfectly smoothly for the technician.  It makes you wonder if the car ever made the noise, or if somehow you're doing something dysfunctional to make it make the noise.  In any event, leaving the repair shop after one of these episodes invariably fills one with a combination of disappointment, confusion and a touch of dread.

Yeah; so this isn't really about my car.  But I think you know that.

In the interest of not buying into my own hype, I've starting seeing a new therapist.  I've been so focused on being supportive for everyone else in my life that I haven't taken the time to check in and make sure I'm working my own program well.  And the fact is that I'm pretty stressed; I can't concentrate well at work, I feel completely overwhelmed in balancing work and home, and my husband and daughter are both telling me, "dude, you need to talk with someone."

So today, I had my first session.   I  had the luxury of 90 minutes to talk about meeeeeee.  We covered a  lot of territory.  He asked the normal questions about "Tell me about your support network.  What are you doing for you?  Do you have any guilt about your daughter's death?"  We probed denial, diversion, and re-direction.  We talked about the afterlife.

And we got to the end of the session.

"So what do you think?"

"I'm wondering why you're here."

"What do you mean?"

"You're already doing just about everything I would tell you to do.  I'm wondering what you're looking for here."

"A magic elixir might be nice.  Just sayin'."

"It's always going to hurt.  That's never going away."

"Well, crap."

We agreed to spend some time working on making sure I wasn't spoofing myself over the next few sessions, finding tools to let me better support Mr. Bean and Daisy Mae, and finally to working on strategies for making this year less painful than last.  But in the end, it was rather like going to your doctor with a hacking cough and having him tell you that you have a virus, you're already taking a decent cough suppressant and getting enough rest, so it's really a matter of gutting it out.

But I like him, and not just because he was validating today.  He's a good listener.  He's obviously got his ducks in a row.  So I'll keep going back.  But at the end of the day, nobody expects to go see a psych and be told, "you're pretty healthy; go home." You wonder if there's another shoe to drop.

With my luck, I'll develop a shimmy in my front passenger wheel on the way home.