Friday, April 30, 2010

always look on the bright side of life

When the medical team that was treating my boy reported that nothing had been found on his scans, I think they anticipated a joyful reaction. What I mustered was a vapid blink. All that I heard was that there was nothing. Nothing to fix. I was unprepared for this development. The news was undoubtedly good, the best we could have hoped for. Certainly a much better outcome than that team, from the scruffy tall neurologist right down to the bright-eyed med student, had expected. But there was nothing to fix.

We went home to wait it out, scarcely comprehending the prognosis of perfect good health because we were so hung up on the terms: days, weeks, months. What does this mean? Do I leave work? Does he leave school? Do I push him to try harder? Does trying harder exhaust him and slow his healing? Is he going to forget how to ride a bike? Will his friends still be there when he gets back? It was impossible to wrap my head around the facts of omission, all the things he could not do, everything he was missing.

I floated in this haze for a few days. We kept up with his schoolwork, we ambled around. Every time he lurched, it was a slap in the face. What the fuck? I mean really, what the fucking fuck? Is this for real?

One evening I left for my respite, the gym, after my husband got home from work. I cried as I drove, just wallowing in the shittiness of this shit. I was just so tired. Constant worry is exhausting! At one point I took a conscious deep breath, and let it out in a half growl, half sigh, half sob (note to self: stop trying to teach him math). And then I snapped out of it.

The scans were clean! Holy crap, those doctors totally thought they were going to find a tumor or MS or stroke. He’s going to be fine! He. Is. Going. To. Be. Okay.

What’s a few months? A few months is a veritable fart in the breeze, that’s what. We can totally handle this.

And with that simple twist of perspective, we started handling it. We began some alternative treatments, and we arranged for the key to his independence and our right to adventure.

We are learning so much from this. He was self conscious and nervous to go on our first outing where there would be people he knows (other than Beth), when we went on a field trip with a group from school. He was unsure about how to answer questions and worried that people would make fun of him, despite my continued assurances that I would squarely kick the ass of anyone who dared try. The kids, of course, were great. There was a resounding chorus of “coooooooooool” and there might have been questions if my boy would have stopped yakking for 2 seconds to let someone else squeeze in a word.

He told me later that it didn’t bother him at all if kids stared at him, but he hated the way that grown ups were looking at him. That hit such a chord – I’m sure I make that same sad smile-face that he imitated whenever I catch the glance of a kid in a wheelchair! What a gift we have to be privy to this understanding, to roll a mile in another boy’s wheels, and know that in just a few months, he is going to be okay.

We've just got to keep looking on the bright side of life.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

KPBS MYE film critic Beth Accomando

My lovely coblogger, Jacquie, invited me to an early showing of the soon-to-be-released movie, Everybody loves…Babies, which opens, you guessed it, Mother’s day weekend.

Here’s a synopsis:
Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.

And although this movie may not be for everybody—there is next-to-no dialogue and the only “action” takes the form of temper tantrums, sibling rivalry, and pooping—I thought it was mesmerizing, and delightful, and so universally human.

These kids have four very different lives, but they all develop the exact same way. We all know this is true: babies are born, they grow, they crawl, they babble, they walk, they talk, but to see it play out on the big screen, times four, is something else all together.

I left the theater thinking about all sorts of things, from how birth order affects your life, to whether or not children living in preindustrial societies are actually better off.

The movie reaffirmed my resolve to have my kids experience nature more often and to savor these fleeting months of my own baby’s life.

Now, am I biased because I have a baby living and growing in my very own house right now? Would you like this movie too?

I’m not sure, but I think so. Check it out the trailer to see what you think. And thank you, Jacquie!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And Then There Were Four....

Cafe Ellie is closed. Shades drawn, sign down, doors locked.

After 16 days, it became the Bataan Death March of Fun. My peeps thought they had to show up every day for 12 days but instead? It became 16.

I ended up with Four Warriors, though, who made it through, who fought the heroic fight of attrition and showed up all 16 days.

Bill and Owen and Schleckah and Deb. My Core Quartet. My Fearsome Foursome.

Schleckah came every day even though he sometimes complained about it. One day, early on, when it was still easy for everyone to show up, Slips said, "Most people go to the bar to avoid their wives. Bill goes to the bar to see his wife. Give him a triangle."

And so I did.

Deb -- she who blew the whistle to start The Race for us last summer -- brought me scones and daffodils the last day. After she already had a star.

Owen got out of work early four times -- four times -- to get to Cafe Ellie before I handed over the bar to the night guy. The good thing? His boss, the person he had to ask to get out early each time, calls Schleckah and me "The Van People." Made it easier.

Bill H. declared my last day -- Day 16 -- Ellie Appreciation Day. He even brought blueberry muffins. With a candle.

Oh, there were others.

Those who slogged in every most days, rain or shine, doctor appointments or work engagements . . .

. . . Slips and Ships and John and Maje and Peter Roberts and Mongo and Elizabeth and Mr. Dibble . . .

. . . and Bruce and Jennie.

But there were four -- four! -- who made it through. Who accepted the challenge and stared down the competition and defied the odds and made it for 16 days.

16 days!

My fearsome foursome, I salute you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

high anxiety

and then all hell broke loose.

I don’t really want to write about all the medical details. I thought I would, at several points throughout the ordeal I was writing it in my head and thinking about how therapeutic it would be to process all of those intense moments. Looking through a window at my boy having a head CT. Meeting his glance as he lay strapped inside the tunnel of a massive and otherwordly MRI machine. Getting annoyed at the post-surgical kid sharing our room for having a fever at 3AM. But I can’t, not yet. It’s still too raw, and too unresolved.

I am very good in crisis mode. I kept my shit together the whole time, and although I’m now fairly desensitized to the image of my boy lurching around like a drunken sailor, I get caught off guard at unexpected times, like reading a supportive email from someone at work, trying not to do the ugly cry while finishing a great book at karate with my girl (The Art of Driving in the Rain, read it), or sitting down to try and write a blog post.

If you know us you’ve probably already been updated ad nauseum, if not feel free to email me and I’ll catch you up. Suffice it to say that my boy is okay, those creepy test assure us that there is nothing evil lurking, and all expert opinions agree that he will eventually lose this wobble. His diagnosis is Acute Cerebellar Ataxia. But it's not cute. Not even one little bit.

When will it resolve?

Yeah. I’d very much like to know.

But hey, I've got photos! And I want you to know that he insisted that I take these, with my phone. He was irked that I refused to videotape the insertion of his IV.

Our day started in the ER:

He was mobile, thanks to those clever cavemen who invented the wheel:

After shlepping all about the palace, we were finally deposited into a little room with a very fun bed in which one could fold oneself in two if one desired.
One desired.

I had a little convertible chair contraption to sleep in, but my boy offered to trade places with me. Awwwwww.
But he totally hogged the laptop.
I thought we had the bad side of the room because we had to amble past the other boy and his other mom to get to the bathroom, but we really had the good side. The one with the escape hatch.

To the pretty little courtyard with windows to the outside world
Where we could yell obsenities greetings to approaching visitors

One visitor in particular declared: "This place is awesommmme!"

I do not concur.
But they took good care of us, and we are grateful and so very relieved that nothing ominous appears to be looming in my baby boy's nervous system.
We are very much looking forward to the time when this is a memory, and maybe some of the good stories will come out and we can laugh and sigh and then get back to the business of being 11. There are bikes to ride, trees to climb, boards to break, adventures to take, not to mention trust in gravity and peace of mind to regain.
So we wait. Maybe tomorrow?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Celeste of the (Jacuz)sea

I want you to meet Celeste.

I met her online.

It really can happen, you know. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one.

Is she not strikingly beautiful?

Just look at that black skin and golden flowing hair.

And what a magnificent shelled tail!
I knew that she would be that special someone something to perfectly accent our recently re-painted (although not yet re-curtained) bathroom. She fits the color, size, and very essence of the room.
I bought her straight away, the description only confiming my conviction:
Bronze Mermaid! She has been spotted on the coasts of Cape Code, as well as the sandy shores of the Padre Islands, and some say as far away as Mexico. She is Mermaid Celeste...
Mermaid Celeste!!
When she arrived, I excitedly extracted her from her box, only to hear various disparaging comments. My husband thought her generally unattractive, and my girls, well, they both voiced the opinion that she was too fat!!
Wtf? She's a mermaid, girls! How many of those have you actually ever seen? They come in all shapes and sizes. Not all mermaids look like Disney's Ariel! Puuleeze.
They felt that her tail was too thick. And, okay, from the angle below, it is rather meaty, but in a strong, beautiful, pelagic sort-of way.

I was not deterred. I took Celeste and carried her right to her new home. Overlooking the Jacuzzi tub, where she'll be forever close to water.
Does she not fit perfectly?

Yes, she does.

Welcome home, Celeste.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekend 3 way: queue it up

Earlier this week I was working on my Netflix queue. You know, trying to add plenty of good flicks to the list so that I’m certain to have something exciting and anticipated coming back at me the next time I send that bright red envelope on its merry way -- instead of a big fat nothing.

My problem, however, is that I’ve never been big into watching movies. I don’t enjoy going to the theater, as much as Ellie’s film festival post made me wish I did. And although I do enjoy watching movies at home, I don’t do it all that often. Or at least didn’t used to. Having a baby who goes to bed at 6:30 pm is changing this a bit, so I’d like your help.

I want to have a kick ass queue. And you probably do too.

So………what are you top 5 movies ever?? Or, if that’s too ambitious, just list 5 that you’ve recently watched and would recommend to all. Provide us with some super suggestions so we don’t end up feeling like this. Please.

I like action, and drama, and romantic comedy. I like family movies, and thrillers, and foreign flicks. What I don’t like are sci-fi and fantasy. So it will not surprise you when I say, I did NOT like District 9. This does not make my top 5. Not by a long shot.

But here are some that do make my list:
Brokeback Mountain
The Bourne Identity
The Hangover
Life is Beautiful

I don't have a queue. I fervently wish I had a queue, because I love watching movies and I don't watch them nearly enough. Actually, I don't watch them ever lately, since our laptop crashed and we got it reloaded and it won't play DVDs anymore. All that's going to change, though: I'm going to find an external laptop DVD player. Hmm, I just looked on ebay and didn't see anything. Why is this so hard?


A couple of months ago my niece Chapel Hill Girl emailed me and my sisters and my mom (and dad, but he's an email lurker) this:

It is near the end of the semester (one week before exams start!) and for my film class, my TA has requested that everyone compile a list of about 8 films that we would recommend to our classmates. The kicker is that they have to be films that the majority of people would not have seen, so not blockbusters. I'm drawing a blank and I was wondering if you all had any suggestions.

Did we ever. We are a family full of suggestions. We'll suggest anything, to anybody. We're very helpful that way.

And this actually has nothing to do with Beth's question, but Beth's question made me think about this exchange with Chapel Hill Girl, and the ensuing emails that flew around, and I've had such fun revisiting it all. (Ohdeargod I am such a geek)

But anyway. Top five movies ever? That's a tough one. Here are five I fervently love:

*Brokeback Mountain
*Young Frankenstein
*Run Lola Run

Actually, that wasn't hard at all....


Ummmmm, Beth? You DO realize that the movie I invited you to watch with me on Weds is in a theater, right? LOL. It's an advance screening of "babies", can't wait! Top movies, hmmmm. That's hard. Here are a few:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (don't miss it)
Empire Records
Johnny Dangerously

I reserve the right to add billions more after We're discharged!!

Friday, April 23, 2010


I was inspired, as I often am, by my baby sister Jacquie yesterday. Her blog post, in which she came out as a blogger (I did not know she was ever in) was brill, as her posts often all. But mostly I was inspired because it featured this photo:

The famous shoes-around-a-circle photo. I love the shoes-around-a-circle photo.

It reminded me of a shoes-around-a-circle photo of my own, from a party way back last fall:

You've got to love 13-year-old Sarah's fuzzy slipper

We were at my friend Bruce's house, for his annual Octoberfest party . . .

. . . and, unexpectedly, serendipitously, it turned into a mini Lifeguards reunion.

The four of us were part of a larger staff that guarded -- conscientiously, energetically, enthusiastically -- Norwalk Connecticut's public beach: Calf Pasture, which is actually split into Calf Pasture and Shady Beach.

Shady Beach. You gotta love that.

Bruce (on the right) was the boss; Paul and Denise were the badass, workout-junky, rowing-fiend worker lifeguards. I was a worker lifeguard too, of course, but during my breaks, instead of rowing around the island, I was mostly about sweeping out the lifeguard shack.

Hey, the lifeguard shack got very sandy.

We had a lot of fun on the beach, and we took it very seriously. We ran, we swam, we rowed, we biked, we drank an awful lot of beer, and we played volleyball every day at 6 p.m. sharp.

But mostly? We were there for the protection of the community. I mean look at us.

Are we not the very epitome of community safety?

Would you not put your very lives in our hands, day after day after day?

No, I wouldn't either.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jacquie's coming out party

Ever since we got the party started here at Me, You, and Ellie, I’ve been somewhat selective about who I target with shameless self-promotion.
Well, that’s not true.
I am not at all reserved about my self-promotion (thus the shameless bit), but there are many people in my life who do not know about the blog. I guess I have an aversion to the inevitable clash between work peeps and internet peeps. I don’t want to censor myself on the blog, and I worry about how the collision of worlds might affect my very personal purpose for blogging. I don’t write much about work for those very reasons, it’s a separate part of my life and I like it that way.
So when I heard that Bossy was coming to town and wanted to meet local bloggers, I thought I would not go. But then I remembered that I’m me and I really don’t like to miss stuff. And Bossy’s blog was one of the first I ever read and it’s awesome, and why would I presume that anyone even gave a shit whether or not I blogged or went to a party or drank seven margaritas?
So I went! I came out of the blog closet, and met an eclectic yet likeminded group of people, and although I kept insisting that I was shy and introverted, I convinced everyone to do Happy Crappy. On the record.

On camera.

Bossy's got mad arm photo skills.

arm photo by Bossy

and everywhere you looked there were laptops and iphones and tweets and cameras

and I think I drank seven margaritas.

and we were all smiles

arm photo by Bossy

and good shoes.

Big thanks to Jenn and her man-eating couch for hosting the fun, and to Christina, Matthew, Deb, Katy, BOSSY, Kelly, Mel , Jenn the lurker, and Scott the camera man for a really fun time!