Monday, January 14, 2019

A nice little list

Mali made a nice little to do list for 2019. Here's mine:

1. Figure out how to do my own taxes
2. Get Sophia ready for college
3. Rehab this broken heel all the way so I can lose these 30 pounds and be healthy again
4. Plant some bird friendly shrubs in the back along the fence.
5. Replace the door to the garage (not the garage door, but the side door to the detached garage)
6. Get two tattoos
7. Have a new roof put on the house. And the garage.
8. Try not to work this summer beyond tutoring, if at all possible
9. Read 12 books
10. Finish my little basement room

A lot of house stuff. One huge big me thing (my heel still hurts after 9 months of healing--I have stamina and ideas and leads as to how to continue to make it better). I think it's possible. I want to be hiking in the mountains at least a little bit when I take Sophia to college.

Now it's written. Now to get started.

Friday, January 4, 2019


I am in the process of writing a story. Or a book. I guess a book. I just finished the writing and have edited it three times. It's a (barely) fictionalized memoir of my time with the young man who lived with me for two summers and how I tried hard to save him but in the end learned you can only save yourself.

I love this story but I know I'm too close to it so I keep stepping away and then coming back. This afternoon I thought to myself, "my eyes have read these words too many times and I need to find a reader who will be brutal with it."

I have no idea what to do with it now. So it sits in my google drive and I drink tea and watch the waning light of this January afternoon pass into dusk.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Five by Five, Lima Charlie

One time I had to send a text to John's brother--John, the young man who was living with me off and on while I struggled to stay adult and focused on all the important everything. His brother was a vet, had been in Iraq and Afghanistan. I sent him the text and he didn't reply. I sent it again.

He wrote back: 5x5 lima charlie

I hear you five by five, lima charlie.

Loud and Clear. I've been listening and thinking and writing and things seem loud and clear.

I am back here at Euler, Not Venn. I am hoping for good things.

Right now, good things are a bichon poodle hybrid sleeping on my feet and a cup of hot chocolate. Amos Lee in the background. Kids going back to school in the morning. I have until Monday. My son, on his way to bed, asked what day of the week it was. That's a good vacation.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I've been trying to write for months and the words aren't here for me. But a friend mentioned that she hadn't read any of my words in so long and she missed it. So here is a November Gratitude List for good measure. Most people do 30. I'm going to do 50. Because I'm super extra.

I am grateful for:

1. The beautiful fall we've had here in St. Louis. It's just been breathtaking.
2. Generosity of friends and relatives
3. Courage to stand up to my doctor and really have her see me and evaluate me based on symptoms instead of bloodwork
4. Soft blankets and cats who sleep on them
5. People who stand up for what they believe in and what they are passionate about and for justice and what is right
6. Google Calendar
7. Wifi
8. The kindness of strangers who invite me into their graduate school projects when mine falls apart because I lose my job and it was based there and when they let me tag along and "contribute" when really all I'm doing is drinking coffee with them and riding coattails.
9. Good coffee
10. 12 interviews in a month
11. Space to grieve
12. Friends who listened and let me say what I needed to say and supported me in many ways
13. Tutoring students who both pay the bills and feed my heart
14. Calculus
15. Crappy math teachers everywhere who make tutors stay in business
16. The fact that so many people were heartbroken when I left my job--not that I want people to be sad and not that I wanted to leave but the idea that I was missed made me feel wanted.
17. The interviewer from the district who told me "They will be calling you. You scored off the charts on this interview."
18. The job I was offered and was able to say no to.
19. The job I wasn't offered.
20. The job I was offered and accepted
21. The Missouri Public School Retirement System
22. Perspective
23. Time
24. Past supervisors who cared enough for me to write me recommendations
25. Professors who supported my efforts
26. The fact that I started graduate school this summer instead of not yet
27. New coworkers who want me to succeed
28. Friends who give advice
29. Friends who say I can do this
30. A clean quiet room to think in
31. Conversations
32. Girl Scout leaders who do it for me so I don't have to keep doing it
33. My 3rd grader's teacher who told me, "you handle your stuff, we've got your back here at school."
34. The counselor at my junior's school who woke up at 5 am the morning of the PSAT to be sure she got the accommodations she was entitled to.
35. The sixth grade teacher who complimented my 8th grader after the play and told me she was keeping an eye and ear out for her
36. The play directors in her life who keep seeing her and giving her chances to shine
37. The third grader's volleyball and soccer coaches who appreciate that he tries and he's a happy team player even if he will never be a great athlete
38.  The guy from the apraxia association who told me that yes, this is what happens next for kids with apraxia and it's ok
39. Hot showers
40. Tiny puppies
41. homemade cookies I didn't bake
42. Courage
43. Stamina
44. Knee surgeons
45. Melatonin
46. The fact that worst case scenarios rarely pan out but when they do, they are sometimes better than you could ever imagine they would be
47. Realizing it isn't my fault
48. Text messages in the middle of the night
49.Being needed
50. Being seen

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Not our usual haunt

My friend Maggie and I are partial to Irish pubs. Actually, I think a better description would be "pubs with a British Isles bent" since the one we go to most often I believe claims to be Welsh, not Irish. It's all optional ethnicities at this point anyway, it's basically "pasty white folk bar".

We are partial to them, however, because I like Irish beer and we both like Irish whiskey. So when we go out and feel like maybe a beer sounds like a good idea, we have several to choose from but you know how it goes, you like a certain table, a certain noise level, a certain easiness of one place over another. And they also give you to-go plastic cups for your water and now you have enough to build one of those Tiny Houses on HGTV out of them.

So it was a Tuesday and she picked me up and we debated. Did we want to eat? Just get a drink? We decided eat. But we felt like maybe we were in a rut and was there someplace new we could try? I listed the standard ones we'd been to recently. Then I mentioned another one, one I hadn't been to since Brooklyn was an Irish dancer and used to dance jigs in bars the whole month of March. Because of course she did.

"Well, let's try something new," she said.

So we went down to Dogtown, which is where some Irish immigrants moved as the St. Louis red brick industry took off, and went to the tiny little Irish pub. As we were walking up to the door, a man a little older than us opened the door and my eyes met his. He was so familiar to me but I couldn't place him. We thanked him and went in. Got a booth along the wall and debated with the waitress about the fish and chips. I got a Smithwicks. We had the fish and chips and talked and it was all just like any other evening.

The man who held the door for us came in with an older man and two younger, very dirty, men. They sat at the table one down from us and I read the t shirt of the man I thought I recognized. It was from the union that Troy had worked for. I pointed it out to Maggie and explained. I was overcome by a bit of nostalgia and looked over at the the guys as they ordered fried chicken and beers and fries.

"You should say something to them," Maggie urged. But I didn't want to intrude. I was starting to put it together. I think I'd had a beer with the one guy, one time when I brought Troy his checkbook and wound up hanging out with them a bit before a union meeting. But they were busy talking and I never know where I stand, or where Troy stood, and I didn't want to intrude. I just didn't want to intrude.

But I eavesdropped like mad.

And then the young guy who had obviously come from some awful dirty job, said, "Well I'm taking the day off because Troy Cooper, he was a good guy."

I looked at Maggie. We both knew I had to go say something.

I went over and introduced myself. Told them I'd heard them talking. Explained that I saw the union logo and wondered if they'd known him. The two young guys started talking about Troy--one of them had been in his apprenticeship class--about how he wasn't that hard a worker but he always brought good food for everyone at lunch so they liked him. They talked about that power plant job down in Labadie and I found myself listening to them explain what a magnesium burner was and how Troy would use it...

Just like when he would sit at my kitchen table and bore me to death with stories about concrete and jackhammers and oh so many other rough hard jobs.

I left them to their chicken and beer and went back and sat down with Maggie.

We were in a bar we'd never gone to.
On a Tuesday.

The week after I learned Troy had died.

And four guys who knew him--and I haven't run into a a union t shirt since Troy lived with us--sat down at the next table.

And talked about him.

It wasn't our usual haunt.

But it was more than a little haunted.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Some things from 64 hours in a children's hospital

London is ok now. So I can write about this now. She started wheezing Sunday morning and by 9 that night it was uncontrollable. We checked in at the ER at one of our two local children's hospitals (we are so lucky considering the size of our city that we have two excellent children's hospitals) around 10:30 that night.

*Easter night in a children's ER is surprisingly empty.

*Children's hospital's nurses in the ER are nice but registration staff are as gruff as they are in normal ERs.

*A staff doctor with a stutter makes me want to assist her in communication.

*Time passes both quickly and slowly. The moments drag but the hours fly and I don't know how I made it from somewhere around midnight until 4 in the morning.

*Twelve year olds do not want you to take their picture when they are in the ER.

*It's been so long since I had my first IV, and I've had so so many since that first one, that it was hard to live through her as she got her first one. Especially when the first line blew and the nurse got a phlebotomist to do it again and there was blood all over the bed.

*Twelve year olds, however, can be notional and like the idea of hospital beds and how they go up and down at different spots and wheel around and raise up and have rails and so forth. Very entertaining.

*Being told that your child is going to be hospitalized isn't actually that bad.

*Being told it's the PICU is devastating.

*Calling your father, the former ER nurse, at 7:30 in the morning while you drink a cup of coffee the social worker got you a voucher for and hearing him say: "The next step is they will intubate her" destroys you.

*And then when he walks into the ER room and you can tell how worried he is, then you know for sure. This whole time you've been thinking a breathing treatment and then we'll go home. Ok, three breathing treatments and then we'll go home. Ok, magnesium and then we'll get a room and they'll observe her the rest of the night. Oh. Oh this is happening. My child is dying.

*Children's hospitals are both grim and cheerful. I've been to both in town before for appointments and MRIs and whatnot, but PICUs are only grim. So many people. So many upset serious people. London was in room 28, and to get to her room I had to walk past all the other other rooms (hers was the last on the floor). There was a secret back exit I could leave through, but to come back I had to walk past every single room. A gauntlet of human misery. Hallways filled with equipment and cabinets and trash cans and machines.

*They break news to you in bits, although I already had hints from friends over text who knew ICUs and children's hospitals and emergency situations. But the biggest bit was status asthmaticus. Asthma that won't break.

*After being awake 27 hours, a single hour's nap in a parent lounge while my father paced back and forth is frighteningly enough sleep.

*People help. Meals were made. My house was cleaned. Brooklyn and Niles were fed and cared for. My phone wouldn't stop dinging from text messages and facebook responses.

*I am very very lucky. For two reasons, one of which I'll get to later, but the reason I saw and felt palpably in the PICU was how lucky I was that my child was well. That all three of my children were ok until that moment. Many sick, many chronically terminally sick children shared my living space those three days.

*Finding yourself texting a friend that you are afraid your child is going to die and then following it up with "I haven't gotten enough time with her yet" breaks your heart open as you realize how much of life is totally out of your hands.

*Having to tell the story again and again makes you relive it just a little bit and your heart races.

*For some reason this continues even days later. Your heart doesn't stop racing.

*Getting downshifted from the PICU to a pulmonary floor is a huge letdown in terms of staff attentiveness. It's like moving from a Ritz Carlton you never wanted to go to, down to a Quality Inn you can't get out of.

*The Ronald McDonald Lounge is absolutely amazing.

*A good nurse and a child life specialist can make a huge difference for your kid as she gets well enough to be bored but not well enough to go home.

*Going home is a huge relief and also overwhelming in a whole new way. And your heart doesn't stop racing.

*Sitting on your dad's front porch the next evening as he pours you a glass of whiskey with a splash of water and he starts a sentence with, "I can say this to you now..." is a really hard moment. The rest of that sentence is "Status Asthmaticus is one of the three true lung emergencies, with embolism and edema. I've seen people die of this." You know you're going to carry that around with you the rest of your life. The rest of your life, and anytime you hear your child wheeze or cough, your heart is going to stop.

We are home. She is well. All is once again right in this corner of the world.

And I'm terrified.