Friday, April 27, 2007

Things that suck / things that don't suck

  • The sucky part: Miscarriages. Unexpected miscarriages. Unexpected late miscarriages. Knowing that there is nothing you can say that will make it any better and that there is a whole lot you can say that might make it a bit worse. The un-sucky part: Having a miscarriage does not mean you'll never have a baby. It will get better at some point, and you will wake up one morning, and your first thought will be something other than, "Shit. I'm not pregnant anymore."
  • The sucky part: Sinus infections, and not knowing if your general malaise is simply a function of little sleep, lots of germs, and anxiety, or if there's something else also. The un-sucky part: a prescription for antibiotics that seems to help. A promise of a doctor's appointment to reassure next week.
  • The sucky part: Taking an incomplete in a previous course and realizing, belatedly, that if the work isn't completed very soon, the incomplete will turn into an F and you. will. be. in. trouble. The un-sucky part: finishing the work and knowing that it is late but well-done and can be built upon easily by someone else if necessary later. The second sucky part: hoping that the professor who needs to sign off on the work is in the country, and not knowing for sure. The second un-sucky part: still hoping on this one.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Things I say 6983 times a day

Inspired by CityMama's post today, the things I find myself repeating over and over each day:

Please use your fork.
Because if you do that, Rocco will want to do it, too.
Use your words!
Help please oatmeal.
Please use your spoon.
Put your shoes on.
Have you gone potty?
Please use your fork.
Do you want to be strong and healthy?
Please use your spoon.
Did you poop? Need a new diaper?
Please use your fork.
I love you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

WonderGirl gets it

Yesterday, like many others at my school, I wore maroon and orange ribbons pinned to my shirt to honor the Virginia Tech community. I'd meant to take them off when I picked up WonderGirl because I didn't know how to explain the situation to her, and we hadn't mentioned it so far. Although our family is very open about death, I was apprehensive about making school seem like a potentially frightening place.

Of course, I forgot to take the ribbons off, and she glommed onto them immediately. (Rocco also glommed onto them, but in a physical way instead, which was easier to deal with.) I explained that something sad had happened, people had been hurt, and while I couldn't do anything physically to help those people, I was wearing the ribbons as a way of keeping them in my thoughts. Our conversation from that point:

WonderGirl: Did people die?
Ruth: Yes.
WG: Who did it?
R: Another student.
WG: Why?
R: No one knows, that's part of what makes it so hard. There wasn't a reason.
WG: (Silent for a moment.) At my school, when someone's not feeling good, we hold them in the light. Do you want to do that for the people who died?
R: (A little stunned.) That sounds perfect. What do you do?
WG: You think about the light you have inside, and you bring it out for them, and you imagine them in the light. You can be quiet for a while.

I'm proud, and grateful, and humbled.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I don't think I'm unique right now in being somewhat overcome by the news of the Virginia Tech shootings. (I may be unique in that I haven't seen even a moment of TV coverage, but that's another story.) There's nothing I can add to the hubbub except that, like so many others, my thoughts are with the Virginia Tech community. The rest of us will be focused on these events for a while, then will gradually go back to regularly-scheduled programming, but that's not true for the students, families, faculty and staff. I don't know how you process anything like this.

I'd planned to write a little yesterday about our family's experience of going back last weekend to Duke for DT's reunion. It was the first time we'd gone back for anything official like that, and it was especially interesting given that we've decided we'd like to try to move back into that area after I finish my degree. Maybe I'll sort out some of that later, but for now, it seems pretty self-indulgent to navel-gaze about my relatively peaceful college experience.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


[cross-posted at Begging to Differ]

Dear Mom,

Ten years ago this morning, I was with you while you took your last breaths. You held out until everyone was around you, then you let go when Dad told you it was all right to do so. We stayed with your body for a while, each focusing as much as possible on how glad we were to have been your family, on how you had made our lives better. If I focused hard enough, I would be able to lift your soul up on those positive thoughts, and help you get to the next place, whatever it was. I could imagine you looking at me, you finally free of the chemo and the tubes and the turbans, knowing that I was doing all I knew how to do.

Ten years ago, I'd just quit grad school, was shacking up with my boyfriend in violation of your religious ethics, and insisted on "comfortable" clothes that you thought were better suited for maternity wear. I know you were proud of me. Now, that boyfriend is the best husband I could have asked for, my children are strong and happy, and I'm well on my way to getting the doctorate that you always worked for and never finished. I know you'd be proud of me. You weren't easy to live with, and I often questioned your parenting style, but I never for a moment questioned whether you were doing what you thought was best. You tried at every juncture to prevent me from making mistakes.

I wish I could remember your voice more clearly. It comes to me at strange moments, but only when I'm not trying to hear it. Usually, it's your Alabama voice, the one that came out when you called your parents back home, not your North Carolina voice, which you used when teaching your students songs about the quadratic formula.

I wish I'd watched more carefully when you made pie crust.

I'm glad I listened carefully when you told me that you loved me.

Now, just like I have my grandmother's name, Ruth, as my middle name, your granddaughter has your name, Claudia, as hers. Sometimes she wears your colorful socks-with-toes when she plays dress-up, and she tells me that she's sad she'll never get to hug you. Yeah, I think, me too.

Your little girl

Monday, April 09, 2007


Twice already this morning, I've seen references to a weekend article from the Washington Post, Pearls Before Breakfast. It's about Joshua Bell, always one of my favorite violinists, and an experiment in which he played his violin at a subway station in DC, the idea being to see if people would recognize they were in the presence of true talent. (Side note: I won't be sending this story to our friend who has me playing the violin again, because he already has a fantasy of us playing on the town square near where we live, cases open in front. He needs no such encouragement.)

Julia has a nice post up about the article, reflecting on her own relationship with the arts, and whether her son might be more appreciative than she thought. Sweet, thoughtful, humble. Then, a leader for the babies/toddlers group at our church sent the article to the group's mailing list because she thought it was "beautiful and poignant." All great, and I'm glad to have two exposures because I would have hated to miss the article.

If only it had stopped there.

The woman from our church almost immediately sent another email that concluded with this lovely sentence about how she answers people who ask her why she is a stay-at-home mom:

Now, I will unabashedly say that I don't work outside our home right now so that I can notice my children's beauty, and give them time to notice the beauty that surrounds them.


Name withheld to protect the insensitive

This kind of thing always gets my hackles up. How anyone can read such a beautiful article and come away with what I consider to be a somewhat-ugly reaction is beyond me. I like this woman in person, although I don't know her that well. I don't know why she considers that only SAHMs have the inclination or desire to unleash beauty in their kids' lives. I don't know why she would consider it appropriate to involve the stay-at-home vs. work-outside-the-home debate in an article about something entirely different. I'm not sure why she'd send that to the entire list, without first reading it from one of the many perspectives of women who might find that hurtful and unsupportive, for good reasons. I don't know why she thought adding "Warmly" would mitigate the punch.

I don't know why she felt the need to ruin the article for others, but I'm not going to let her. I'm going to re-read it and take a moment to remember an experience I had this weekend, when we were away with our friends. My violist friend and I were doodling around with our instruments and started playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for Rocco and my friend's son, who is almost two. The boys were delighted and clapped and spun. We probably played it ten times, and had we not been usurped by the boys' interest in a meal, we would have played it for hours, over and over. Even though I'm not a stay-at-home mom, it was beautiful.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

In search of calm

Last Friday morning, WonderGirl woke up and stumbled into our closet, where I was getting dressed. She proclaimed, "I don't feel good, I'm dizzy," and collapsed into a pitiful heap on the floor. She was burning up, her throat hurt, her head hurt, her tummy hurt, her fingernails hurt. She hurt.

A classmate had been diagnosed with strep earlier in the week, so I bundled her off to the doctor for a strep test. One hour, one copay and one negative result later, we were home, ready to fight off whatever virus had taken up residence. Four days later, her fever finally broke. I broke about two days earlier.

I'm a worrier, especially about the kids' health. I wasn't this way when WonderGirl was a baby, when I was "supposed" to start worrying. I took everything in stride then, had faith that she was resilient and knew she would eventually throw off whatever germy goodness she picked up. Then I had the miscarriages, and they changed everything. Twice, the little signs of problems were actually true signs of true problems, problems that were only going to get bigger. Now I don't take anything for granted. I've had to try to re-learn coping methods that I thought I outgrew several years ago.

One night when she was sick, WonderGirl said her neck hurt, and there was a bump there. DT looked vaguely concerned, then satisfied himself that it was an enlarged lymph node in a spot that made sense, given her illness. I saw his look of vague concern and my stomach went down an ugly path, where I imagined WonderGirl gravely ill with cancer, wondered how I'd react, wondered things that I don't even have the nerve to type here. I literally made myself sick with worry that night, which did no one any good. Now that she's feeling better, I haven't had the nerve to check the bump and see if it's gone down. I don't want to know.

My huge relief at WonderGirl's recovery has been marred by the simultaneous (perceived) decline in Rocco's health. I've assumed he might come down with this after her, but also wasn't sure if he might have had a variant first, and have been our own little Patient Zero. Of course, he's not ill in the same way now, so my worrying continues. He's cranky and his feet started peeling last night. Could be the massive amount of sand in his sneakers or, if you're me, it could be Kawasaki's disease, which was on the differential diagnosis back in the scary time when he had a long-term fever and temporarily stopped walking. I'm going crazy watching him, looking to see if he's walking all right, wondering why he won't let me put his shirt or his shoes on, apparently needing more of an explanation than the fact that he's 20 months old.

Luckily, we're leaving town for a long weekend tomorrow. We'll be staying with two other families at a house on a lake in the middle of nowhere. This time tomorrow, I'm hoping that my biggest concern is how to keep my sheet music from blowing off the stand while I play the violin on the deck with our friend. WonderGirl and I have packed everyone's clothes, everyone's toothbrushes, everyone's bath toys. I bought a case of wine. I hope it works.