Monday, July 03, 2017

For Richard stands

So you know how every so often I get this wild hair/hare and decide to drive us somewhere?

You may recall that a couple summers ago I was all, hey, I think I'll drive my mom and the kids to Texas! And Nick was all, "That is a VERY TERRIBLE idea."

Which was true and right and we never drove to Texas. Maybe someday.

Then last summer I suggested driving instead of flying to Denver. And when Nick was skeptical, I was all, "What? It's not like I'm driving to Texas!"

Fortunately, Nick does not die in shame at having married someone who has no grip on geography and does things like insist Denver is 1. closer than Texas; and 2. right in the middle of the country. Because, seriously, doesn't it seem like it should be? Instead of way over where it actually is?

I'm looking at a map right now, and it seems to me that Colorado should be where Missouri actually is. And you know, I'm always surprised at Nebraska. In my mind, it's wedged between Nevada and Idaho.

But back to reality geography.

Instead of perishing in horror, Nick goes ahead and points out the geography of the place on a map or globe.

The place being the country we live in. In which we live. I know, I know.

On a side bar, when Nick learned the pledge of allegiance, Nixon was president, and he thought it was, "...and to the Republic for Richard stands, one nation under God..."

And then when Nixon was no longer president he couldn't figure out why they still said for Richard stands. He never asked.

I don't actually know when he figured out it was "for which it stands".

Anyway. What this is really about is this.

I've decided to drive us to Canada! 

Toronto, more precisely. Because I understand that Canada is vast. Even larger than the United States, even though some people aren't happy about the fact.

Canada is firmly north of us. There's no ambiguity with that. And Toronto isn't even that far north in the scheme of things.


Betty and the kids and I are going to Toronto in August! I was thinking we'd go the beginning of August, but as it turns out, the first Monday in August is a holiday. Just because it's the first Monday in August. 

So rethinking dates. Or maybe not. Basically, so far, we're driving to Canada in August.

We are going to bring our passports and ask for asylum visit my dear high school friend Sophie and her lovely family. It sounds like we'll also get to see my friend Rob. You know Rob--the one who walked all night with me in NYC.

We are, in fact, going to bring our passports just to get in. Because we do understand that it's a whole nother country.

Now, listen to this. According to Google Maps, driving time is about eight and a half or nine hours. And we are not on a tight schedule.

So we can stop on the way there and on the way back. Maybe we stop in Pittsburgh, which I've never been to.  Although that seems like it's a little out of the way.

Although not as far out of the way as, oh, Texas, for example.

I'm trying to figure out a good mid-way point, or two good third-of-the-way points. 

Perhaps you are from or familiar with Pennsylvania or New York and have some thoughts on this? Or perhaps you yourself have driven from DC to Toronto?

If you have ideas, I'd be delighted to hear.

We have begun discussing the most important part of the trip, according to my children. And that is MUSIC.

Despacito turns out to be a must. Also Little Black Egg by the Nightcrawlers, if you've ever heard of that. I hadn't until Nick played it for Jordan and it immediately became one of his favorite songs. Also Nemesis by Shriekback, which fortunately I love. Cruel Summer by the Bangles (India's choice), also love.

Truthfully, I would have the 1980s on constant repeat, but it is not always up to me.

This is as far as we've gotten.

Oh, and snacks. We're definitely bringing snacks. Maybe music comes in second.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The club you don't want anyone to join

The finish line!
Shortly before dawn last Sunday morning, I finished my fourth Out of the Darkness Overnight walk.

Some of you have loved and supported me through nearly losing my dad in 2007, and his death in 2009. You've been with me through my first, second, and third Overnight walks.

The back of the shirt says, "I'll be up all night for" and then you fill in the space below.

Before last weekend, of course I was acutely aware of who I'd lost, and the importance, in my mind, of keeping this from happening to others. But I wasn't focused on the simplicity and gravity of walking dusk to dawn in memory of someone.

It is hard both emotionally and physically. I always cry at the opening ceremony, where people share experiences and talk about who they are honoring with their walk.

Second Lieutenant USAF, Travis Michael Jordan
This spring I asked my cousin Mike and his wife if I could dedicate my walk to their first-born son, Travis, who passed away on May 5, 2016. I felt so humble asking, because it struck me what a tremendous privilege that it is to walk in someone's honor.

My father was mine, as was my uncle, who left no one but us behind. I tell you that my uncle believed he was alone in the world, and his funeral was standing room only.

But I never had to ask anyone about them. And I didn't contemplate the gravity of it.

This year, I also offered for people to give me a name to put on my shirt. If you wanted to add a loved one--or, in some cases, more--I would be honored to carry them with me all through the night, on my shirt and in my heart.

(In previous years, I wrote names on pieces of beautiful paper. I don't know why I didn't think to open up my shirt. Which sounds like I was flashing people. Which I most certainly was not.)

This year, on my shirt, I had an awful lot of names. Mothers, fathers, teenage boyfriends, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends...

People gave me what felt best. Initials, first names, full names. One friend gave me initials but emailed me the full names, so I would know them in my heart. This felt right to her.

One long, long-time friend, who supported us through very hard times with my dad, and was very private about her dad, gave me his full name for the shirt. The import of this struck me hard, and upon reading, I burst into tears.

It still crushes me now, all the names, all those we love and miss.

This year, I raised a shocking (to me) $8,425 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I felt proud to do this in my cousin's name.

When, at the walk, they talked about the millions raised for research, I felt hopeful. My kids are half me, after all, and depression and suicide are on both sides of my family.
This year, I also joined Team SOLOS. I will walk with them again next year, and the year after. I will always be grateful.

Many SOLOS teammates have been walking together for years. They've formed friendships through walks and volunteer efforts. Our teammate Connie walked the halls of the Capitol doing advocacy work the week of the walk.

The long-time teammates know each other really well. These walks are a reunion, and odd as it may sound, something to look forward to annually.

They're kind and loving and supportive. They welcomed those, like me, new to the team. They were immensely supportive of first-time walkers.

They hug. They're funny. They bake for the walk. One of them made these muesli chocolate balls. They are dense, heavy balls. There was some worry of them becoming moist in all the humidity. Stacie's balls became a running joke.

This year, with this team, I really felt connected to the walk, in a way that I hadn't before.

In April I told my acupuncturist that I cry a lot while fundraising for the walk, because it keeps the topic of suicide and loss at the forefront of my mind.

She asked why I do it. And she didn't buy my answer of raising money for research and outreach. She said, "You have some reason you do this for yourself. This is hard and upsetting. You need to figure out why."

In April, I didn't have an answer.

Now, after last weekend with this team, I do.

Because the walk is healing. Because I need to feel like I am doing something positive. Because I want to honor my loved ones. Because I like being with others who understand the crushing terribleness of losing someone you love to suicide.

Because it is a relief to talk about some terrible details and know you are not describing the unimaginable, because we've all, in one way or another, lived through the unimaginable.

Because it makes me feel less alone.

My lovely friend Laurie, who I met when we both performed in This Is My Brave in 2015, joined the team as well. This was her first walk, and I was so glad to walk together.

Laurie and I met up with our friend Jenn, the founder of TIMB, who volunteered at the walk.
Mini Brave reunion
I don't know about the aftermath of other types of loss, but for me, my dad's death by suicide felt very isolating. I wanted to talk about it all the time, but didn't feel like I could.

I wrote about it. Weird as it sounds in this public space, that felt safe. But I didn't discuss it with most people. Some people I knew for a fact knew about didn't ask or offer condolences.

I knew why. I wasn't mad, but I knew it was different.

After some time the hurt became manageable, so I wasn't just a giant walking wound. But with time you just have to wait, and wait, and wait.

It turns out that time really is the longest distance between two places.

(It also turns out that if you wear a flashing safety bracelet in a port-a-potty, it's like being in a tiny disco in hell.)

Three years ago, Nick asked me very gently if I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, or if I needed some extra help. Because my dad's death was still a near-daily topic for me, and it had been five years. He worried that I was unusually upset.

He didn't say this unkindly. But the implication was that five years was long enough. I should be done.

Five, as it turns out, was the year that I finally realized that I couldn't save my dad. That I hadn't failed him. That helped more than anything.

It was also the year I also understood that there is no "long enough" for your grief. There is no particular point where you should be "over it" and moving on.

When I was small, five was the biggest number I could imagine. I would say to my mom, "I love you five!" Because there was nothing more vast.

Five was big for me. Eight, where I am now, is an even better place to be. A man I met, who'd lost his 26-year-old son, told me he's in a much better place now that it's been 12 years.

Grief is not linear. It loops and doubles back, and just when you think you're fine, it punches you in the stomach.

Birthdays hurt. Death days hurt. Every single year.

It doesn't matter how many years go by. It hurts to lose your dad, your twin brother, your baby sister, your husband, your son...It hurts and hurts and hurts.

Other people, even close friends and family members, get tired of your grief. One woman voiced this. Another shared her similar experience. And another.

I hadn't heard this from others before. It resonated.

The walk itself was physically hard, my hardest one yet. I think mainly because the humidity was at approximately 100 million percent.

And I am a person who embraces heat and humidity.
So tired, so sweaty, so ready to stop walking
By mile 16, which turned out to be close to the end, I was desperate to stop walking. My legs were tired. My feet were sore. I was exhausted.

Our team all started out together, then we lost each other for three or four miles, and then grouped back together.

One of the members was in his military camouflage. This made him easy to spot in the sea of blue, although, even with his boots and 50 pound pack, he was generally way ahead of us.

My dear friend Amanda dropped in to walk for a couple hours, just as she'd done on my first walk. And then, when we were on Capitol Hill, Kris and Megan texted to say they'd seen some walkers at a rest stop, and where was I?
Lovely friends! And gelato!
Turned out I was just down the block.

Kris treated me to Pitango gelato. I got the cardamom flavor and it was basically a cup of magic.

You walk through the night, and arrive in the dark before dawn. Your path, and in this case the steps of the Lincoln memorial, is lit with luminaria, which are paper bags that participants decorate to honor their loved ones.

While you walk, volunteers fill them with tiny lights, so they glow from within.
I made two: one for Travis and one for my dad. Laurie made one for her son, Nathanial, who had just turned 24 when he passed away. When we got back, Laurie and I looked and looked. But we couldn't find Travis's or Nathanial's.

The bottoms of some of the bags had disintegrated in the humidity, and they'd blown away in the breeze. We wondered if ours had.

After about half an hour searching, we sat down, exhausted and disappointed. And then Laurie said, "I hope the two of them floated off together and are having a great time."

That comforted us both.

On Friday night, the man I mentioned who had lost his son said, "This is a great group of people. But it's not a club you want anyone to join."

This will forever be true.

If you have lost someone to suicide, the walk, and being immersed in a group that really understands, is immensely healing.

I never want you to join my club. I really, really don't.

But if it happens that you do, we will embrace you with arms and heart wide open.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Winds of change

Some of you are in-person friends of mine, and the truth is, I've been instructed not to point this out. I risk letting you in on a little secret.

But I've decided it's a risk I'm willing to take. Because I love you all so much, and this just needs to be out in the world.


You know that game where you each get a number and you get to pick a present out of a pile, and then you steal from each other, and the person with the highest number gets the best choice?

That game stressed me out until I realized that honestly, there's nothing I need. If you put something hilarious or nice it with the thought that you're giving it away, and you're interested to see where it goes, but you're not overly invested in getting something, the game is way more fun. For me, anyway.

Nick's office plays this game every year at their holiday party. It's where he got the fuzzy blue bodysuit.

We used to spend Christmas Eve at Pat and Phil's house, and we always played this game.

One year, this tissue dispenser was the most hotly contested item. It was stolen and restolen. My dad coveted it. I coveted it. Everyone but Betty wanted it.

Our friend Byron wound up with it.

I thought of it off and on over the years. I googled it a couple times, to no avail.

But life goes on. You cannot stay hung up on a tissue holder forever.

A few weeks ago, we attended Pat's memorial service.

I have to tell you one woo woo thing that happened, because Pat was my woo woo person. Nick and I drove separately, and after I parked my car, I checked my phone for the time.

Facebook was open. And the message on my page was one of those friendship reminders with a whole bunch of photos. It said that Pat and I had been friends for 8 years.

Naturally, this meant I cried all the way down the block and into the church. One of the ushers asked if I was OK.

I like to think I could be a spy but man, I can't even play poker.

The service was beautiful and funny and sad. The music was gorgeous. The speeches were intensely personal.

I cried a lot. I wore a dress with pockets that turned out to be perfect.

Why don't all dresses have pockets?

And then afterwards, Byron approached me. We hugged, and he handed me a bag and a note. The bag contained the coveted object, which he was giving to me.

He wrote that he remembered that my dad had coveted it, and he was now ready to pass it on to the daughter of the original coveter. It was a double, even triple gift, in this way.

He suggested putting it in a bathroom used by guests. The reward, he says, will be a loud laugh.

"If there is no response,  you might want to question the sense of humor of your guests. You might also want to question their continued presence in your life."

It's not yet been put on full display, in that I have to figure out how to mount it on the wall. It's currently on the counter, and too subtle. I need Nick to help me with this.

I'm not saying it's a perfect test. I'm also not saying I'll be loitering outside the bathroom door.

It is allergy season, however.

So come on over.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eight year anniversary

Eight years ago today, May 15, my mom called at noon and said Dad was gone.

Most of me knew that we would never see him alive again. He was not likely to survive a seventh suicide attempt, when the prior attempts nearly killed him, and the last one diminished him greatly.

His body was frail. His spark was gone. His smile was forced, barely a pull-back of his lips. His eyes were flat.

But a tiny piece of me held out hope. We'd saved him so many times. He was excited about my first baby; surely he wouldn't leave us with just three months to go.

I needed him to meet my baby. I needed him.

Surely he wouldn't go when I needed him so much.


We got Dad's goodbye letters out of the blue, a year after his death.

They'd been sitting in some file in the 3rd District Precinct.

A kiss with a fist.


It took me five years to stop obsessing about my dad's suicide.

I'd wanted to secretly microchip him, you know, so I could always know where he was. You're not allowed to do that.

It took me five years to understand that not only could I not save him, but it wasn't my responsibility. None of us can save anyone else, not long term. No matter how hard we try.

The instant I understood this, I felt absolved.


Eight years later, I still cry sometimes. I get sucked into the ugly "what-ifs" even though intellectually, I know they are pointless.


I still wonder if Dad died on the 15th or the 16th. His death certificate says the 16th, but I learned recently that the time of death is determined by when the DC official sees the body and records the death.

Did he walk around DC one final time? Did he have any hesitation? Both days were spectacular, drenched in sun, luxuriating in azaleas.

I remember after my mom called, looking at the riotous blue of the sky, the kiss of the sunshine. And I thought, Dad couldn't choose today. It's too beautiful a day to die.

So was the next day.


For a long time, I was angry. How could he abandon us? How could he do this to me? Didn't he love me enough? Didn't he want to know my baby?

And I felt so guilty about my anger.

Now I tell people to allow themselves feel whatever they feel. All your feelings are valid. No shame.


If you can forgive, you will feel better.

You might need to forgive yourself. If you do, start there. 


I've decided that if you are someone who can see the bridge, sometimes it looks so easy to just step off. Coming back from that point and living is what's painful and hard.

I have heard the mermaids sing, each to each.

Living every day on a semi-even keel, when you're not a semi-even keel person, can be exhausting.


Laughter and hysterical sobbing are not so far apart.

It's shockingly easy to swerve back and forth in grief.

Always run with laughter, no matter how inappropriate it might feel.


I know that Nick doesn't understand why my dad's death is still a big topic for me. He's not outwardly critical--to the contrary, he's supportive--but I know he genuinely does not understand.

I'm not vying for the worst loss award. But suicide is different.


It's a relief for me to be with others who have lost loved ones to suicide.When I do the Overnight walk, it's a crowd I'm at ease in, no matter how few people I know.


The other day Betty said, "Maybe you can finally stop writing about death."

I said, "I don't think so."


Some days are better than others. Most days are better than others.

Some girls' mothers are bigger than other girls' mothers.



I have a dear friend who annually sends *hugs* on this day. It is perfect.

He is one of my heart people.

I would never have met him if I hadn't started writing about depression and suicide.


All loss hurts.

I selfishly want those I love to live forever. Or at least longer than me.

Whatever I feel is valid. I should allow myself to feel it, be honest, and let it go.


After years of lying when saying, "I'm fine!" I am honestly, actually fine.


Anniversaries are hard.

And that's OK.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day, Pat

Dear Pat,

Sunday is Mother's Day. I have my mom, and until last Sunday, I had you.

You were my second mom, my other mother.

You liked to tell the story of how when your kids and I first started high school in Delhi, someone suggested to Shannon that he ask me out. And he said, "Gross! That would be like going out with my sister!"


Your boys were and are dear to me, and always more family than friends.

I hope my kids are lucky enough to have a relationship with an adult like I had with you. Someone they love, who they know loves them. Who they can trust and confide in and turn to for advice. I hope they have someone who tells them they can do it, whatever it is, and since the person is not their biological parent, who would say that stuff to them even if she were lying, they can believe it.

When we spoke, you focused, truly focused on me. This kind of attention is uncommon, and it feels like sunshine. I always felt so considered, so heard. I can't count the times I asked for your advice. You were always certain, gentle, kind and nurturing.

Everyone whose life you touched feels they have lost someone important, someone great. You were generous with your time, your love, your kindness.

Your door was always open, as were your arms.

My parents were always there for me, except when they weren't. Maybe they were living in South America. Maybe my dad was in a rough period, or in the hospital. Maybe my mom was too exhausted, or out by the creek, unreachable.

You were solid, a constant.

How many times did I move in with you guys, just for a bit? Sleep over? Leave my stuff while I took off on an adventure/hid from my life?

I recognize now that I needed a lot, and I received from you more than I gave.

I had the privilege of being there when you took your last breath, for which I feel grateful. Janie told us you'd said that you saw my dad reaching out his hand, ready to welcome you.

How many people have such generosity of spirit to give a gift even as they are leaving?

You were there, and then you weren't. I knew it was coming. And still, I was unprepared.

I do understand that this is the way life works, and I must say, I don't like it.

Naively, despite much evidence to the contrary, I thought my dad was always going to be in my life. And then one day he was gone. Lou was, for me, another mother figure, another always person, who slipped away. Peggy left us way too early.

Your loss pulls up a rush of other losses. I'm heartbroken in a sea of lost loved ones.

I hope you all are having an amazing reunion.

A month or so ago I listened to you and Betty talking about your Peace Corps life in Kabul. You laughed about how you made things like marshmallows and donuts, because you wanted them, and anything you wanted, you had to figure out how to make with what you could get. Betty sewed your wedding dress, and it was blue, because that was the only beautiful fabric available in the market in 1963.

I love all these stories.

My earliest memories are of Bangladesh. I probably spent as much time at your house as at ours.

I loved Christmases with your family and the Ciszewskis in your fabulous sunken living room, with the same tree, dug up and replanted every year. Who else was there? Surely Dallas, who made me laugh so hard.

I have vivid memories of your swimming pool. Would we swim with the frogs now? I think not. My dad made up a bedtime story about the Humph that was stuck in your pool and scared us all night with his HUMPHS! until we buttered the pool around him and enabled him to slip out.

Your mango trees were great to climb, but gave your kids hives. I got hives from the caterpillars. Pepper had such cute puppies. 

Just recently you brought up that terrible first Christmas in Delhi. This was the first time you ever  mentioned that you were (of course) in a terrible spot, having to move Jordan mid-year, because my dad was too unhealthy to handle a teenager. I wanted to tell you, but didn't, that back then I wished I could get out as well. It was a brutal time.

You loved my dad even though you'd lived with his worst. I loved him even though I'd lived with his worst. And his worst was ugly and destructive and cruel. Toxic. Still you forgave, and stuck with us.

I was always thankful for that, and I never told you so.

I guess actually, you know all of this now. I'm the one who feels the need to say it.

You and Phil came every time my dad disappeared. The two of you held us, made phone calls, drove around with me following lies and false leads.

I remember in 2001, when I in introduced you to my new boyfriend Brad in the ER. You shook his hand in greeting, then hugged me said, "We've got to stop meeting like this!"

Under a decade later, we stopped meeting like that.

You were with Betty that awful afternoon in 2009 when Nick and I brought the news we'd located Dad at the morgue. I will forever remember you two in front of the house crumpling into each other.

The azaleas and dogwood were blooming. It was a gorgeous day.

You and Phil were among the first people to greet my Jordan, my boy, my joy that my dad never met.

My Jordan was due on my birthday but born on yours. Another Leo.

One birthday--either before 7th or 8th grade, you gave me a pair of yellow jeans, saying every Leo needs yellow pants. I took it as a rule. I wore them for a long time.

People still talk about the eulogy you gave at my dad's memorial service. You were always a beautiful writer, and really, a stage performer. I loved that we had Emily from Our Town in common, and every time I used a quote from it, you commented.

You and Phil came out with us on Nick's sailboat to scatter my dad's ashes on his birthday. Who closer, more fitting, to help us release him?

A few years ago, your Jordan slept over one reunion weekend. In the morning he walked into the kitchen, plopped down with my kids and said, "Hi, I'm Jordan." My Jordan's eyes got wide and he said, "Jordan? I'm Jordan!"

I've always been able to recite the history of our families, kind of like kids know the alphabet: My parents met you and Phil in Peace Corps training,  and you moved to Afghanistan together. You and Phil got married in Kabul. Betty sewed your wedding dress. Jordan was born and named after us, (except before I was part of the us).

I have known these things my whole life, just as I have always known the four of you. And you leaving us, even when you were sick, was never a real possibility. You were one of my always people, so your not being here was inconceivable.

This means what I think it means.

Maude said that she likes to think of your energy and your exuberance, which has now been released into the air and spread across the world. It's like sparkles of sunlight on dewy leaves, a bright shimmer through the trees.

We all get to revel in it, in you. For this, we should celebrate.

I've lived with grief long enough to understand that my grief is all about me. I'm the one mourning what I've lost.

You, you are sparkling in the breeze, shimmering on the water, glittering in the clouds. 

As the Stage Manager said, "There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being."

I am lucky you were my other mother.

I love you and I miss you.

Happy Mother's Day.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Today you are five!

Dear India,

This is you this morning. Today you are FIVE!

You are so five. Going on 15. You do this celebrity pose that you surely learned on Barbie--one hip stuck out to the side with your hand on it, elbow crooked. You roll your eyes. You sometimes have A Tone.

I put together this stroller last night because your dad is gone this week. Initially I had two extra pieces and both wheels kept falling off. And then one of my friends helped me on the phone, and now only one wheel falls off.

I think it's because the metal rod is supposed to have grooves on each end instead of just one end. Your dad thinks that it has something to do with the extra pieces, which incidentally are still extra. I keep telling him that I think he needs to saw a groove into the other end when he comes home.

If it were just me, I'd glue the thing on. However. I'm willing to wait for him to check it out.

For the time being, you're strollering very gently.
You're so full of energy and enthusiasm and certainty. You rush full speed at everything you want to do. You love exuberantly. Sometimes you drive your brother insane, but you love the tar out of him.

The other day you were so determined to do the monkey bars. You got up and fell down over and over until you could get to the third rung.

I admire you.

One of your teachers was endlessly impressed by the fact that on a stormy day you said the sky looked "ominous". She must've made a big deal of it, because now you regularly ask for words that most four-year-olds don't know.

Obstreperous is a word I've suggested. Because boy howdy are you.

And yet, you're extremely kind. You're gentle with younger kids. Your teachers told us that there's a child in your class with delays, and you're unfailingly patient and sweet with him.

Speaking of school, you recently told some of the kids in your class that for time out, we send you to the bathroom after your daddy poops. I had to tell your teacher this is absolutely not true. She laughed and told me that one of the boys was all, "Wow, I thought I had it bad!"

I was, I must admit, impressed with your creativity.

We've recently been discussing body hair and puberty and menstruation. I can only imagine what you've shared with your class in this regard.

You call yourself a fashionista. Your dad rolls his eyes at our shared enthusiasm for clothing and footwear. Some of your outfits are truly surprising but also incredibly refreshing. You love to put on my boots and prance around.

I deliberately don't talk about size and weight, instead emphasizing strength. You see me work out regularly, and sometimes you join me. You talk about how strong you are, about the physical things you can do. I hope this continues.

You hate food lately. Meals are generally torture. Despite this, you consistently like broccoli and you've become a huge fan of asparagus. You also like figs, which I'm kind of fixated on right now myself.

Sometimes I look at you think, how did I get so lucky? I say this to you. How am I so lucky that I get to be your Mama?

We are on spring break and we have had a lot of together time. Last night I hit my limit, and I said I needed a time out. You started to cry and followed me. So I invited you to join my in my time out. We snuggled in the chair in the back room. Because Jordan called it the "background" when he was very young, we still call it the background and I don't think we're ever going to stop.

You pronounce the fourth floor the floh floh. I'll be sad when that goes away.

And you still say, "It's glad that..." I'm so charmed by this that I never say "I'm glad" to model the correct form. I just agree with you.

You are wonderful company. I love spending time with you. I love when you put your small hand into mine.

I so often stroke your cheek and tell you that you are my joy, my treasure. Sometimes in the morning you do the same back to me.

Sometimes you come up to me and kiss me on the cheek over and over. Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss.

These things crack my heart wide open.

It's getting harder and harder to pick you up, but I will keep doing it as long as I can. You wrap your legs around my waist and your arms around my neck. You put your head on my shoulder, and I can feel your soft skin against my neck. Sometimes I feel your eyelashes flutter.

This is one of the unexpected pleasures of being your mother, something I have come to love most. One day you will be too big to fit or too old to want to. I hope it takes a long, long time.

I love you love you love you,


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to cause a commotion on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour

Perhaps you were on Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour yesterday and you had to drive around a broken-down car in the middle lane, inside which was a nicely dressed woman sobbing hysterically?

That was me.

I will admit that with regard to vehicles, I fit the worst female stereotypes. It is terrible, I know. I lived alone for six years, owned my own place, took care of all my bills and what-have-yous.

And still, when my muffler broke, I called my dad. When my dad offered to get my oil changed, I was delighted.

I take my car to the DMV inspection, and to get it fixed, and all that. But I find all these car things stressful. Maybe I make them worse than they have to be.

Remember when I broke my wheel and then rolled into that parking lot full of convicts?

Now, I feel the need to tell you that earlier in the day, I'd said my final goodbye to a dear family friend. I'd placed my hand on his forehead, silently wished him Godspeed, told him I loved him, asked him to say hi to my dad for me.

Grief, in the end, is all about us, isn't it?

So I had already been crying a good deal and was already an emotional wreck before my car broke down.

I called Nick (hands free, on speakerphone) from I-66 the second time that I put my foot on the gas but the car didn't respond. See, the first time it did that, it was brief. This little light that looks like a submarine but surely isn't, flashed on. And then my car went back to normal.

And then it happened again. And then went back to normal. He said to try and get home and then we would deal with it.

But then I got on Rock Creek, and traffic was so slow, stop and go. And at some point, my car stopped, and would not go, no matter what.

The submarine light, the battery light, and something else went on. But not the car.

At this point, I was maybe half a mile from home, in the middle lane.

I had this brief urge to get out of the car, get on the Rock Creek bike path I know so well, and go home. Car? What car?

People behind me started honking, because what kind of jerk just plain stops in the middle of Rock Creek Parkway at rush hour?

My windows were down, because even though my car had not been overheating, Nick kept asking, and it was a beautiful day and I figured why add extra stress to the unhappy engine by running the AC.

So my windows were all the way down when my car died. This detail matters because here's what I did next: I put on the hazards and started sobbing hysterically.

I mean, I was crying so loudly that people who passed me leaned out their windows to ask if I was OK. I could only nod because I couldn't actually breathe.

One woman very kindly said, "I hope your day gets better."

I called Nick, who very sternly told me to PULL IT TOGETHER AND BREATHE. This only made me cry harder, which I knew frustrated him and did nothing to calm me.


Once I was able to calm down a little, he said to call 911.

Which I did. The woman who spoke to me told me not to cry. But in a nice way.

Naturally, I continued to sob after hanging up.

And then two young and very fit guys came over to my window and said they were going to push my car to the side. They very kindly did.

Nick called again and said he'd organize the tow truck and call the car place, and where exactly was I and what had happened with the car?

So I said, "Well, I was driving, and then when I tried to accelerate it just went "Rrrrrrrrr!" and then the little light that looks like a submarine flashed and then it went back to normal but then it happened again and then..."

"You're going to have to explain to me what 'Rrrrrrrr!' means. And the light looks like a submarine?"

So I explained as best I could what the car had done and not done and that there is this light that looks like the Beatles' roundy Yellow Submarine with a periscope.

I think he said this may be the engine light. In any case, my explanation was enough to tell the car people and the tow truck.

And then he said to get out of the car, because cars often get hit from behind. Apparently this is a thing people know but I did not. Now I do.

At this point on the parkway, there was a small stretch of sidewalk and a low wall. So I sat on it, in my nice dress and wedge heels. But for the car with the hazards and hood, and I guess also the location, what with it being on a wall on the side of the road, I looked like I was waiting for a date to pick me up.

I wasn't crying anymore. But my phone battery was low. I put it on power save, and posted my status to Facebook.

Nick criticized me for this later, but I will tell you that I needed some support. And my friends are lovely. A couple of them so nicely offered to come get me.

I was wishing I'd brought a book. I should never go anywhere without a book. And phone power.

A number of police came by and asked if I had called 911 or had a tow truck on the way. One of them pulled over and gave me a flare and told me how to start it, in case it was dark by the time the truck came. He also helped me open my hood.

I can't tell you how many people looked over and asked if I was OK. Two cars pulled over and asked if I needed a ride.

They were either really kind or axe-murdery. You can't tell when you don't know people. But I'm going to go with kind.

By "going to go" I mean choosing to assume. I don't mean I would hop in the car with a stranger.

I will be honest and say that I did that kind of thing in my foolish youth and nothing bad every happened but I count myself lucky.

Eventually a tow truck pulled up behind my car. I waved and walked over.

Except that it was a random tow truck. I called Nick to ask him the name of the company, which turned out to not be this one. The guy said, "Cancel the other one. We're here now and we can take you."

I was tempted, because I was so tired of waiting, and starting to fret about it getting dark. In the dark, the nice guys who inquired about my welfare would start to seem threatening.

Nick wanted to speak to him, and after a brief conversation he said I would just wait for the truck we'd organized. Apparently the man said, "So you're just going to leave your wife on the side of the road?"

Ooh, manipulation.

And then, after another half hour or so, just as the sun was starting to sink and I was thinking I had to light the flare, a nice man named Max turned up in a very large tow truck with the correct company name on the side.

He asked what had happened and I didn't use the "Rrrrrrrrr" noise. He expressed sympathy for me sitting by the side of the road for that long.

And then I handed him my keys, thanked him, and walked off into the sunset.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

New additions to the fear list

Death by coconut
This is a thing. A friend of mine went to Panama, and at the hotel they gave her a list of things to watch out for.

Top of the list? Above scorpions? Falling coconuts. Hand to god.

"Although it sounds peculiar, the most dangerous thing in the Caribbean is having a coconut fall on your head." Direct quote. See below.
So I Googled this, and there are a number of articles about how you are more likely to die from a falling coconut than a shark attack.

I think they were trying to reassure people, like listen, shark attacks aren't even as common as coconut attacks, but all I could think was, you're not safe in the water and you're not safe on the beach! Nature will kill you every time.

Listen to this: if a coconut falls out of a tree, it can hit you with 2,000 pounds of force. And then you die.

This happens!

I recommend wearing a sturdy but stylish pith helmet. Betty used to have a very cute one, although I cannot remember why, because if she knew about the coconut danger, she never shared it with us.

So, yah.
Death by being swallowed by a python
Last week I read about a 25-year-old Indonesian man who went out to harvest palm oil. And he never came home, so his family went out looking for him.

Do you know where they found him, two days later? In the stomach of a 23-foot long python.


Pythons, they squeeze you to death. They're incredibly powerful, and they just crush the stuffing out of you. There you are, walking along, collecting your palm oil, and the next thing you know your whole body is being strangulated by a giant python.

Then they swallow you whole. Their jaws unhinge, or something like that, so they can open wide enough to swallow an entire grown man. With his boots on.

They do this, and then lie around in a ditch and wait for you to digest.

I'm not clear on what happens to the boots.

Apparently, they rarely eat humans. They typically eat small and medium sized mammals.

Also, I know what you're going to say: We don't have them in DC, Lisa, except in the form of shoes and handbags.

Listen, we also don't have hippos, and they are way high up on the list. I don't let little things like practicality or lack of proximity deter me.

Like, I also realize there's not going to be a shark in the bottom of the pond or the swimming pool. But if I can't see the bottom, or if it is deep and I am swimming alone, it doesn't keep me from panicking.

Jaws traumatized me for life.

Also, did I tell you that there are sharks in the Potomac?

You're welcome.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Scary monsters and super creeps

My brother and I were raised immersed in the religions of the cultures we lived in--Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam. We never attended church services, but grew up visiting temples and mosques and churches as cultural outings rather than religious ones.

Then, when I was 14, my parents got worried that eventually my brother and I would freak out about our lack of religious upbringing and run off and join the Moonies. So they started hauling us to Mass. But, for me anyway, it was too late for the ritual to appeal.

Despite my parents' fears, I've never sought out a cult, and as far as I know, my brother hasn't either.

Nick and I haven't raised our kids with any religion, although I'm starting to think we should at least offer them some religious education.

I can't remember if I told you that last year my daughter came home one day and said, "Mama, do you know who Jeez is?"


Now, Jordan knows a lot of bad words, but he also knows that kids shouldn't say them. And when I run my mouth when I'm driving, he will say things like, "Mama, maybe instead of using the asshole word, you could say he's a jerk."

I always thank him and say he's right.

And yesterday the kids were watching teens and adults play basketball at the park. Jordan later told me that he heard some very bad words. I said I expected that was true, and I trust him to know not to use them.

So recently at dinner Jordan said, "Mama, is 'hell' a bad word?"

Nick had bought Jordan a King Kong comic book. And apparently someone in it says, "Holy hell!"

I said it depends on how you use it. I went on to explain that Christians think hell is a place where bad people go after they die.

Fortunately, they didn't delve into this, because I don't have much more to say. The bulk of my knowledge of hell comes from Dante's Inferno.

Anyway, back to the hell at hand.

I said, "Talking about hell as a place is fine. But if you say something like, 'Oh, hell!' then it's a bad word."

"What if I said 'Holy hell' because a 50-foot-tall King Kong was chasing me?"

"Sweetheart, if any giant beast is chasing you, you go ahead and say whatever you want."

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

For those of you who also love my Betty

Because I hate suspense, and cancer is very scary, I'm going to tell you up front that everything is OK.

And now I'm going to tell you about the past month.

It is February second, and I am in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

I'm a sucker for stained glass and achingly high ceilings.

My dad was Catholic, and when I'm in a church, I light a candle for him. So I am wandering around St. Patrick's, wondering which saint would be the best one for my dad's candle.

I look for Saint Michael, because that's my dad's name, but then Michael was an  archangel, right? How does that work? Does he get a niche with candles?

Before I can examine all the saint options, my phone rings. It's my mother's doctor. I answer quietly. Are you allowed to talk on a phone in a church?

She tells me that my mom's CT scan revealed a mass in her lung. And that she needs a further scan to determine what it might be.

I am too well aware of the fact that Mom has smoked for 60 years.

I start to cry while we are talking, and in the end, I can only whisper, because otherwise, I will wail.

And then I feel so lucky to be in a church. I sit on a pew and sob. I know I'm an adult with children of my own, but I am not ready to let go of my mama. I am not ready for my children to lose their Nana, one of their biggest cheerleaders, reading companions, night-time snugglers.

As I cry, I pray, which is what I do in crisis. I did this every time my dad attempted suicide and went missing. Every time he wound up in the hospital and I held his hand and stared at the monitors.

I beg, and I tell God that I know that I really suck in that I only pray when I need something and it is true that I am not religious and don't go to church and am not going to start. But please, please let my mama be OK. Please.

Unable to stop crying, but with a train to catch, I find the nearest saint, and light a candle for my mom. I figure the living need it more than the dead.

There is a gift shop near the door, and I stop in. I buy a St. Patrick key chain.

Because I am also a sucker for colorful stuff with saints.

The following week, Betty has a PET CT scan. They have her drink glucose and put her in a lead-lined room. She'll be radioactive, so she has to stay in there alone. She can't be around babies or pregnant women for 24 hours.

The technician explains that cancer uses glucose at a faster rate than normal cells. So this test will show if her mass is using glucose, and how much.

Her mass shows up as using glucose. This means it is growing, although not rapidly.

We are fortunately able to get an appointment with a recommended pulmonologist within the week.

The nurse takes her vitals and tests her breathing, which shows that she has reduced capacity for her age. The doctor shows us the scans of this new, growing mass, which wasn't present three years prior. He says removal would be the preferred option, but her reduced lung capacity makes that very risky.

He says he needs to consult with the radiologist to see if he can get to it for a needle biopsy, so they can know what they are dealing with. If not, and they deem surgery too risky, they would consider radiator or chemotherapy.

I ask if it could be an infection, and he says yes, there is a remote possibility. But this is not the kind of thing where he'd give antibiotics and wait to see what happened. We need to start treating this ASAP.

He calls me to say the radiologist can do it.

Betty has the biopsy.

I call to get results, and am told we have to meet with the doctor. The first appointment he has available is 4:40 pm the following Monday.

As in yesterday.

Betty spends the month letting go of things she loves. You like this? Take it. Here, have this. I should sell my Indian paintings. They're valuable.

At some point I realize what's going on and I say, "Mama. You're not planning on dying, are you?"

She denies it, but I don't believe it.

Finally, finally, the Monday that was yesterday arrives. We drive to Sibley, and finally, finally sit  down in the room with the pulmonologist. Who we like, and who, incidentally, has a nice head of hair.

He shakes our hands, sits down and says, "It is not malignant. It is an infection. You dodged a bullet."

I start to cry. I exhale all of the breath that I have been holding for the entire month.

He explains that it takes six weeks for the culture to grow, but they think it is a kind of nontuberculous mycobacteria. This means it's a wee bacteria that's like TB, but not. And it is not contagious.

It's around us, in the air and the soil and what have you. But this one has now set up camp in Betty's lung.

Older women are the population that this typically happens to, turns out. Them and people with compromised immune systems.

He writes down a lot of complicated names, all of which are possibilities. These require 18 months of triple antibiotic. They are, as the treatment suggests and my google research confirms, very hard to kill.

But for now, we wait. They monitor her with another CT scan in May.

It is not cancer. This is the most important thing. It is NOT CANCER!

My mom says, "What should I do now?"

The doctor respons, "Go home and celebrate. And buy a Powerball ticket."

Later Betty says to me, "I'm not going to die."

And that, my friends, was our month.

It was an amazing reminder to me to hold my loved ones tight. To be kind. To appreciate the people I have while I have them.

To love big, with the realization that nothing is forever.

That was our month, and I'm so grateful to be on this side of it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

I mean, I guess I could try

Yesterday the second grade at Jordan's school had an event. Parents were asked to supply breakfast.

I volunteered to bring coffee. You can never have too much coffee, right?

The Dunkin Donuts was surprisingly empty when I arrived. There was one person at the counter, asking for one of the new donuts. This new donut, which I think was actually pain au chocolat, would not ring up.

The man ordering kept pointing at the donut tray and saying, "It's $1.49."

But it wouldn't ring up. It went back and forth like this until the attendant got the manager.

So then it was my turn. I asked how many cups per box. Eleven. I ordered two boxes of coffee.

By the time the boxes were ready, there was quite a line. The manager rang up my order while the other guy filled a bag with cups and creamer and such.

He put the boxes and the bag together on the counter and said, "Do you need help? Is it just you?"

I didn't think, until immediately afterwards, about the fact that they were heavy, and that these men assumed I was driving, and were offering to help carry them to my car. 

So I replied, in front of everyone, "Oh, I'm taking them to school. I could never drink all this coffee all by myself!"

I just...Why?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A twofer of sorts

Most of the time I do not give my boobs any thought.

It's kind of like how I feel invisible when I'm out running, and then am always shocked when someone I know mentions they saw me.

I don't think about them, therefore they're not.

I mean, obviously they're still there, but not in a way that is of particular interest to me. Except sometimes, when I fixate on their no-longer-perky-little-cupcakeness, and then google breast implants.

What I want, really, is just a little scoop up where it used to be. Or rather, two. One on each side. That is all.

But there are more pressing things in the world to think about, and I spend the bulk of my anxiety on my children, my family and loved ones, and on the crisis state of our country and the world.

Nick mentioned the other day that I have the least sexy bras imaginable. And I was surprised, not because I disagreed with him once I thought about it, but because I had never thought about it.

Lingerie was a priority for me for a while. Mainly in my 30s when I had some money and there was no consistency in who might be seeing my undergarments.

And here I will say that I hit one of my lowest points in underwearing in my 20s, just out of grad school. I was in a state of semi-undress with a guy and then realized that one side of my underwear was held together by a safety pin.

And I was all, "Oh, god. My mother would die if she knew I was wearing such terrible underwear." And then he was all, "Why are you talking about your mother?"

It went no further than this. I'm pretty sure I threw out those undies after that. But it's also possible that I didn't.


While I was pregnant and had young babies, I wore very practical maternity or nursing bras. And then when I was done nursing for the second time, and ready to go back to my beautiful bras, there was a lot of space between where my boobs ended and the bras began.


Post-two-baby-nursing, instead of embracing the boobs like a kind hug, my bras regarded them like a picket fence might gaze at the house across an expanse of yard.

Faced with replacing them, I discovered the joy of stretchy sports-y bras. Not with the stern construction and constraint of running bras. But made with lightweight fabrics and thin straps.

These bras have a good shape, no wire, no hooks. They're extremely comfortable. The have optional pads for warmth/looking like I have actual boobs.

Still, every once in a while, I do think about breast implants. I have friends who are utterly delighted with them.

Would I be utterly delighted to have some semblance of my old body back? To occasionally, with the right bra, have cleavage?

But then I think, besides the cost, and really, even bigger than the cost, is the fact that it is surgery.

They put you under. General anesthesia is no joke. It's a big deal.

My friend Maude had cognitive impairment after anesthesia. It is rare, but it does happen. And her surgery was not elective.

What if something terrible happened, when it was something you didn't need to do in the first place? You were altered for life because of something totally frivolous?

I decided no to breast implants. Absolutely not.

And then I realized that in the next couple years, I'm going to need to have a colonoscopy. They put you under for that as well.

So if there were a way to do them at the same time, then I'd only have general anesthesia once, for a non-elective procedure!

I told Nick I just need to find a way to simultaneously get the colonoscopy and breast implants.

He contends that finding this surgery combo seems highly unlikely, even impossible.

I concede that he is probably correct. In the meantime, I'm going to get an attractive lacy bra or two. They just need to not itch.

Boob itches are the worst.

Monday, February 13, 2017

You don't say

India wanted to make her own valentines this year, so yesterday we bought fun colored paper and all these glitter glue pens.

What is it about glitter that makes it so endlessly compelling? Who can pass it up? Not us.

(And now that I say that, maybe it is like trauma memoirs, and not actually a universal preference. Whatever. I love the glitter.)

India threw herself into the project with delight. I cut out the hearts and she went about layering colors of glue all over them. They were all abstract, save one.

"Oh, India, your valentines are all gorgeous!"

"Thank you, Mama."
"I particularly love this one! Is this a dancer on this card?"

"That is not a dancer."

"Well, to me it looks like a beautiful dancer!"

 "Mama." Serious look. "That's Jesus."


Friday, January 27, 2017

School struggles

I'm writing to ask for some guidance. I need help.

Jordan is having a really hard time in school. He says he hates school, which may or may not be true, depending on the moment. But it is true that half his day is a struggle.

Here's the deal, or what I think is the deal. And as I see it, there are two issues. One, a personality clash with a teacher who doesn't have a lot of experience. And two, the inability or unwillingness to stay on a task he finds boring.

Jordan is in a bilingual school. He has two main teachers that split his day--one for English, one for Spanish. All math instruction is in Spanish. Now, he likes math. In fact, he loves it. And his Spanish is great, so it is not impeding his ability to do math problems.

What he doesn't like, or anyway, claims not to like, is Spanish.

We heard this the first year, when he disliked his Spanish teacher. Last year was great; he loved both teachers, and they loved him. We heard no Spanish complaints.

This year, he likes his English teacher. She is fantastic. She's been teaching a long time, and she is  strict and fair and she has his number. He and his Spanish teacher have had multiple standoffs. He clearly frustrates and annoys her, and she frustrates and annoys him.

My brother had relationships like this with some teachers. I saw this annually. His grades were great and terrible, depending on whether or not he liked his teacher. Nick says he was like this as well, so it feels familiar to him.

Me, I just went along to get along. I mean, I didn't always do my work. But I was always, always polite and agreeable. Interestingly enough, that goes pretty far.

Earlier in the year, when the standoffs started, we met with the teachers and the school counselor, who was amazing. (She's now retired, and I don't know her replacement yet.) The counselor knew Jordan, and explained him well to the teachers. He's smart. He's sensitive and intense. The school day takes everything he has--he has nothing left for homework.

I agree with all these things.

Now, Jordan has had to stay after school a number of times to finish math problems. Two days ago he had to work over recess.

They get 30 minutes of recess a day, which is hardly enough as it is.

His teacher explained that she is opposed to taking away his recess, but feels it is her last resort, when she has no other consequences to mete out.

Nick and I have discussed how he does better when he's cajoled than when he's threatened with punishment. I've been in standoffs with him like the ones they have in class. Mine are of the "brush your teeth" variety, and hers are of the "do your math problem" ilk.

The standoffs are obviously wretched for all involved. He is extremely stubborn, and he comes by it honestly.

But he's not disruptive. He just...sometimes doesn't want to do what he's asked to do. So he doesn't.

Sometimes when they're doing math he just spaces out. He dawdles. Yesterday we had to complete his math at home, because he did two problems in 30 minutes, because he was just hanging out.

He's not climbing walls or pinching other kids or getting others involved at all. Nothing like that. He's simply not doing what he is supposed to when he doesn't want to.

But she feels that she can't let him out of classroom tasks without consequences, or her authority is undermined.

The other day she told me that he doesn't do his homework, so clearly he isn't used to doing things he doesn't want to do at home.

Want to enrage me? Imply that I'm a lazy parent. Tell me that I don't require my kid to do anything he doesn't want to do.

So I replied, politely but possibly through slightly clenched teeth, "He's SEVEN. I don't think seven-year-olds should have homework, and I am not going to make a seven-year-old do homework. And I assure you, he does plenty of things he doesn't want to."

Now, I remember having a history teacher that I disliked, and her class was boring. I would sit at my desk and quietly watch the seconds on the clock and see how long I could hold my breath. Tick tick tick tick tick.

I don't remember a single thing she said in class, but I do remember being impressed with myself when I got to a whole minute.

She never noticed. But I also did at least the bare minimum, and would never have said "no" to an authority figure.

So yesterday was a crap day at school, and I got an earful from his Spanish teacher at pickup, and we had a bad night of struggling with math problems. Because my kid didn't want to do them. Because he kept getting distracted. Because I had to keep him on task and keep him on task and keep him on task.

When Nick got home and I told him about it he said, "Do you think Jordan has ADHD?"

I flipped out. Of course he would pick a facile answer. Of course he would be all, let's just throw some medication at our kid. Ooh, I was mad.

He doesn't bounce off the walls. He can sit still. He can concentrate, really concentrate, when he's interested in something. Of course he's bored with those math problems. Especially with the way you have to do math now, drawing boxes and circles and whatever the hell. My god, I'd be bored. I'd quit halfway through, too!

I got over being mad and I did some reading.


So many of the descriptions of symptoms felt so familiar. They could be describing Jordan. Not just in school, but at home. (More surprisingly, they could also be describing me.)

But reading a list doesn't mean this is what it is.

I don't want him to hate school. I don't want him to have miserable days, and then miserable nights. Switching classes is not a solution, in my opinion, because even if were possible, I don't know how he'd get along with the other Spanish teacher. And we'd be giving up the great English one.

It seems only right that we get some professional help at this point. If there's something to diagnose, like ADHD, obviously we want to do so. And if it's not ADHD, but there is something else that can help our kid, we want to do so.

Where do I start?

Monday, January 09, 2017

Blue, blue, electric blue, that's the color of my room

I was going to start this out with, "The problem with depression..."

But of course, there's not one THE problem. There are a variety of problems and inconveniences. I don't actually know that there's any upside.

A friend who has bipolar disorder described a manic episode to me, and I have to say--and in fact did say to her--that it sounded like fun.

She said they can be fun, and you can be super creative and get a lot done, what with the time you spend not sleeping and seeing the world in a very different way. Which is what makes manic episodes so seductive.

But mania has a dangerous component, and of course depression can be crippling.

So there's that.

Whereas I have plain old depression without the mania. It's not like I'm wishing for a manic component.

Of course, if I had a wish, it would be not to have to deal with depression at all.

But my depression is manageable, and so I manage it. With medication. With daily exercise. With nutrition. I have a light box. I'm limiting sugar, and trying to get off it (oh, but I love sugar...). I'm avoiding fast carbs and alcohol.

All of these things help a lot. But they don't completely fix it. There isn't a once and done fix, or not for me, anyway. There's maintenance and vigilance.

When I am overwhelmed, it seems Sisyphean. Other times, it's just like having asthma, which is only limiting when I don't manage it properly. I don't think of it as my defining characteristic, but I have to think about it, so I don't let it slide.

This is just how it is.

It used to be that when I got depressed, I'd cry. I'd cry at work, alone in my cubicle. I'd go home and sit on the floor and cry. I wouldn't be able to leave my apartment because I couldn't stop crying.

I could hold it together for meetings, provided they weren't all-day meetings, because if they were, I'd have to go to the bathroom intermittently to cry.

I'd run regularly because I couldn't run and cry at the same time. It was a good break.

But now, now when I sink, it manifests in anger. I still cry pretty easily, but I do not sit around and cry for hours on end.

Instead, I get impatient. Angry. I snap at everyone. I have so little tolerance for anyone and anything, myself included.

Basically, I'm a lot more functional in my depression, but boy do I suck to be around.

But this also means I don't recognize it so easily. It's much more obvious when you cannot leave your home, or have a whole conversation, because you can't stop crying.

Now I just seem like a harpy. I'm shrill and ill-tempered and screechy. But that might not be depression. It could also be hormones. Or a bad day. It might not be a shift in brain chemistry.

Hard to know.

I mean, I saw my shrink last week and told him I thought my current dose of medication was great. I'm doing really well, I said.

But it turns out I've been horrible to my family. No patience, no tolerance, very sharp tongued.

I could feel myself doing it, but I didn't recognize it. It was just...why why why is my family SO ANNOYING?

And then on Saturday, Betty asked if I'm depressed.

Depressed? Me? Why?

Because I've just been so unpleasant. So short with the kids. With everyone.

So I stopped and looked back and realized that I've been retreating for a while. It's been harder and harder to leave the house. I haven't been enjoying things. Was this depression? I thought my meds were right.

I don't know if it's my brain chemistry or the weather or the alignment of the planets or what-have-you.

Nobody really knows. My shrink admits it's a guessing game. They make their most educated guess, and then it's trial and error. Which is what makes mental illness so hard. There's still so much of the brain that's a mystery.

I have permission to up my dose.

So I did.

And the world is starting to look a whole lot more appealing.

Friday, January 06, 2017


I'm in the sandwich generation. Maybe some of you are as well.

My kids are 4 and 7, and my mom is in her late 70s. This is a big span of ages.

Betty lives with us, and this is good in so many ways. My kids are growing up with their Nana in their everyday lives. When they list our family, she is included. When Jordan reads at night after dinner, she is who he reads to.

If we are Facebook friends, you regularly see pictures of them together in the red chair.

But sometimes, one of my kids and my mom are ill or in need of some kind of help, and I get a little overwhelmed.

I do freelance writing and editing, but no longer have an office job. So when someone needs me, I am here. I can do what I need to do without calling a boss first, without sprinting home from the office.

This is a lucky position to be in. I know.


My mom had been wheezing for a while. I would hear it every once in a while when we were sitting together. Once or twice I offered her my inhaler.

We all had colds all fall, so I figured it was connected. But this week it hit me that it had just been too often, for too long.

On Tuesday I asked her if she wheezes regularly.

Every day.

I asked if this concerned her and she said, "Maybe this is just how I am. I wheeze."

No. People do not just wheeze without a reason.

So I had her call her doctor, who, when she heard about the wheezing, was able to squeeze her in on Thursday.

And then Wednesday night Jordan started crying while Nick was brushing his teeth, which is how Nick wound up looking in his mouth, and then called me in, and then we both tried not to freak out so that Jordan wouldn't think it was something terrible.

It was a big bump on his gums, above his remaining top front tooth. Big, round, and sore.

I freaked out after he went to bed. What if it were something terrible?

Our dentist is away this week, so early yesterday morning we started calling around and got an emergency appointment with a pediatric dentist in Chevy Chase.

I asked if they thought we would have time get to K Street for my mom's appointment by 12:30. They said yes.

So we took Betty with us, and parked right across the street at Saks, because Betty said she would browse and also get parking validated. (Note: she got us free parking, plus they gave her a bunch of samples.)

The staff was lovely. The dentist was wonderful. And they kindly gave us a break on the anesthesia Jordan wound up needing.

Jordan had an infection. That was the big bump. The baby tooth had to come out.

But it took longer than expected. Because anesthesia, tooth extraction, hang out and breathe through the oxygen mask recovery.

All went well. He was a rock star. 

So at noon Betty got nervous about her appointment--as did I--and got a cab. But not before handing off our parking validation.

As soon as we could leave the dentist, Jordan and I raced down to K Street and parked in one of those lots that charge you like a million dollars an hour.

I am, on the whole, opposed to paying for parking, but sometimes it is just not optional.

We sprinted a block, Jordan complaining the whole way, and got to the waiting room in time for them to call my mom back.

I go to her appointments because she is a terrible self-reporter.

She'll be sick and when the doctor asks how she's doing she'll say, "Fine!"

Seriously. Her arm could fall off and she'd say she was fine. And if the doctor didn't notice, she'd come home and I'd ask what the doctor said about her missing arm and she'd say, "I forgot all about it."

So now I go to her appointments and she says she's fine and then I'll be all, "Except that you've been so sick you haven't been able to eat for three days, which is why we're here."

And then she'll say, "Oh, right. Except for the terrible nausea." Or inability to breathe. Or whatever it is. Severe pain somewhere. Arm falling off. Etc.

Also, I wanted to make sure to tell them that she's smoking. Yes. I wanted to tell on her.

She'd quit a couple years ago after getting pneumonia twice in one season and not being able to get out of bed for weeks. Honestly, weeks. Her doctor told her sternly that this was just going to keep happening if she kept smoking.

So she quit. I think.

A couple months ago, when I found out she was sneaking cigarettes, I said, just like a kid, "I'm telling your doctor on you!"

Ooh, I was so upset. She said she'd already told the doctor, but I wanted to make sure. Because it matters.

And I wanted to ask about COPD. Because I am terrified of this.

To sum up: Jordan lost his last front tooth, and is absolutely delighted.

Betty has pneumonia.

And me, I'm just very tired.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

As midnight nears and shadows creep/Come into my sleep

You know I love my daughter.

I love her more than rainbows and chocolate and sunshine and sprinkles. We play this game regularly. What do we love each other more than?


I love her and her brother more than anything they can name. Anything imaginable.

But I want her the hell out of my bed.

I have thought about it, and counting bad sleep while pregnant, and the fact that India was up every two hours for at least her first year of life but in my recollection it was more like two, then if you add all my nights of good sleep together, I've had maybe one week of solid sleep in the last five years.

No wonder I am so tired and haggard and crabby. All the time.

Every night our little dollop of delight comes in sometime between midnight and 2:00 am.

You'll be awakened from a sound sleep with "thump thump thump thump thump" and the thud of a small body reaching the bed. She clambers up, and crawls up  the middle of the bed and into the covers.

And then it begins.

It would be one thing if she just went to sleep and didn't move a whole lot. I could live with that.

I'm not saying you always get kicked in the head or whacked with a sleep-heavy arm, but it does happen with terrible regularity. And she likes to sleep with one leg in, one leg on top of the covers. So your covers are constantly being tugged.

India has the middle of the bed. Prime real estate. But she wants to be right up against you. Nick has his claim pretty firmly staked, so I tend to wind up on edge of the bed.

She mashes against me. So I scoot. And she scoots. And inch by inch, we creep towards the edge. I awake fully when there is nary an inch ahead, just air. Hello, Charybdis!

During the day, it's different. I am super huggy. I touch people's arms when I'm talking to them. I hold hands. My daughter climbs up on me all the time.

But sleep? NO TOUCHING. This is my side, that is your side. I love you very much goodnight, see you in the morning.

If I go sleep in her bed, she turns her attention to Nick. So there is no real sleep. Last night I went to her bed at 2:00 am and then at 4:00 she came down and woke me up to find her water.

I nearly wept.

We have tried a sticker chart. Five stickers and India got to pick her treat! McDonalds! Frozen yogurt! A trip to the Diner! A pony! Our first born!

Anything! Dear child, anything! Just let us sleep!

We had five nights of staying in bed, like until about 5:00 am. Or coming to our bed but then agreeing to stay in her bed when Nick took her back.

This, for us, totally counts.

But then she was done. She'd accomplished it. Five was enough.

It turns out that there's nothing worth more to her than sleeping with us. Stickers for treats? Feh!

Jordan can be bribed encouraged with Pokemon and Lego. And he's always been a great sleeper. And he's like me--if he gets scared and comes to our bed, he stays an hour and then he's done. He wants his space.

India doesn't have things that she's into for bribery. And even the proffer of outings she loves aren't enough.

For a while we put a cute little foam mattress next to the bed. She could sleep in our room, but not our bed. She had her own pillow and my Gramma Lillian's rainbow afghan as her special blankie.

She called it her cozy bed.

Her cozy bed worked all night like twice. And then, then she enjoyed her cozy bed until one or two in the morning, and then crawled in our bed.

She says she's scared. This is what she says every time. No matter how cozy and safe she will agree that her bed is.

You cannot argue with scared. True or not, you don't want your kid to think that you are unconcerned about their fears.

(Even if it is up against my fear that I will never sleep again.)

We are old and tired and desperate.

So if you have any suggestions or resources we are begging open to them.