Denial and cancer: my experience as half of a couple

I’ve been playing catchup -- reading the stories of other widows and widowers with young kids. Snickollet, Dorcasina, and Crash Course Widow are the top three now. I’m trying to get through years of old entries, because to some degree I should be making friends.

Walking through these deaths and grieving experiences again, so similar to my own, may be contributing to my general Christmas drear. Of course it doesn’t help that I am itchy, my eyes since August, my ankles acting up now and then, and headaches that may mean I’m now a migraineur. (Another club that no one wants to join.)

One thing I’ve been fascinated with is the cancer denial. Gavin really did not think he was going to die; Kubler-Ross says they all do. And basically, I knew he would. I felt he was always too optimistic. I had married a man 20 years older and we’d had other health scares. But we had a peculiar balance, between the two of us, between seeing and denial, between wanting and knowing, and it changed all the time.

Shortly after his death I went back to the therapist he and I had seen a few times during his last 6 months. We had seen her in 1999 after he’d first “died” in the kitchen and I’d had a one-night-stand affair. We were in the middle of our 8 year struggle/indecision about infertility and the anger was so close to the surface. That counseling probably saved our marriage -- we came out the whole deal stronger. She thought he was charming, even when he used the Simpsons line, “And I’m an excellent husband” in session.

After his death, she offered me a few sessions, free, whenever I wanted them, to help “close things out.” She felt for us, and the things we were trying and she knew they were not settled. It took me nearly a year to take her up on it. Seeing her alone, remembering the sessions and where we were in our minds, where we met and where we tussled, was so helpful. After three sessions I was very grateful to her; it had truly helped.

What had helped? To see how different we were. To know that someone else saw us not on the same page, and it was normal, and it was okay. To have someone else acknowledge how much that was hurting me. To have someone say I had done everything I could, that I had nothing to feel guilty about, even though we couldn’t be a perfect team in this one project.

After those sessions, I wrote up this chronology of our ideas about dying.

Basic chronology and how I thought about his death:
1. 1999, When he fell (defib #3 and device initial failure): Oh God. Not yet, please. NO!
2. Sept. 2004, At diagnosis, “Oh honey. It’s cancer”: Oh God. It’s here. How do we want things to end? Make peace with everyone. Be kind. Be together. Quit my job. Find meaning and never do anything I don’t want to. Touch. Don’t let go of my child. Intense shock. Awe. Sadness. Always knew it would come first for him, but not now, not when our child needs us, not when everything is in flux, let’s say goodbye first and settle everything.
3. Oct. 2004, Dr. Schmaltz: We’re learning about how to deal with this terrible system, but since Gavin is feeling well and we seem to have some options, death seems pretty far away. Then again, what we don’t know scares us, so we only look one step ahead. An important survival tactic that lasted a long time.
4. Nov. 2004, first surgery: He could beat this, but the end is closer than I had hoped.
5. Jan. 2005, looking forward to IL-2: This could work, even if it did, the disease could recur, but would buy us a few more years.
6. Feb. 2005, rejected from IL-2, take low dose IL-2: This could buy us some time, but not as much.
7. Oct. 2005, spine about to collapse, insensitive doctors: How did those assholes miss this. He could die from their negligence. The surgery offers increased quality of life for however long he has left. I know he is going to die.
8. Oct. 2005, during the second surgery: He’ll pull through this but it’s brutal now. Is it worth it for increased quality of life for a little bit of time? (Maybe a year).
9. Oct. 2005, lost X-rays delays radiation treatment by 3 weeks: Those assholes! They are taking MONTHS off his life.
10. Nov. 2005, recovery and radiation. He’s having fun finishing paintings for a show. He’s taking good care of himself and having fun with SS, but very fatigued. He is not on treatment. Sense of dread. We are trying not to look.
11. Dec. 2005: anticipating Nexavar. Real hope. He could get another year of good quality of life and do some work and have some fun. We could say goodbye leisurely and just.
12. Jan. 2006, on Nexavar: Thank God it was approved. But he is so unhappy. If this works, this could be the miracle, but will he be happy enough if “this is life” on the drug?
13. Jan. 2006: He thinks the drug can cure him, but it won’t rebuild that part of his spine that the tumor ate; he will always have a cane.
14. Mar. 2006, follow up about spine about to collapse again (one strut of prosthesis broken): Insensitive, incompetant, lazy, awkward, covering-up damn doctors. You fucking jerks. I wish we’d never met you.
15. Apr. 2006, not letting anything slippery on the floor, with a 2 year old and no other able bodied adult ever around: If I can keep him from falling, things might be okay. Dealing with disability, pain, the prospect of another reconstructive surgery when the first one failed and nearly killed him, he couldn’t take any chemo while recovering. This was the thought – not death.
16. Apr. 2006, anticipating Sutent: It’s not as powerful a drug. Maybe it will give us a few months. Nexavar worked great – marked reduction – but new tumors growing.
17. Apr. 2006, Kat visits for a lovely, sunny afternoon: Much later, she observed that death was present then. I asked her if death was like the elephant in the living room. She said, no, it was more like a kitten. Every now and then, it would need attention and one of us would reach down to pet it.
18. May 2006, possibility of second primary: These things are so much larger than I ever imagined. Can’t deal with learning about and advocating for another cancer. Please don’t say “lung.” I’m ready to give up, can I die too? I could. I know I can’t stay here and do this again.
19. May 2006, on Sutent. Please bring us a few more months with no symptoms that ruin life at the time.
20. May 2006, shingles, thrush: Oh God. Are these nuisances or signs of immune system collapse and the impending end? I am angry at him for quitting Nexavar, what is life in bed compared with death? He is not being reasonable given the choices before him.
21. May 2006, we take a desperate, spontaneous vacation in WV, SS scratches his cornea: I tried to make things nice, but there was not that much I could do. He was in pain from this minor, minor injury done by his greatest love at a fighting bedtime. He was helping me by helping to put her to bed.
22. May 2006: I am pretty sure he’ll make it to his birthday (July), but possibly not to mine (Sept.), and not to our tenth anniversary (Oct.).
23. May 2006, the last two weeks (“The mediastinum is….full.”): That’s no big deal. We already know that. He’s been coping with these same challenges for almost two years. I don’t know what death is or how it could or would happen. I don’t understand what’s happening despite a sympathetic doctor and many explanations. I don’t believe it, I don’t listen, I don’t undertand, I get lost in details. Agree with Gavin mostly, but still know I have to hide some things from him. Mixed feelings about doing this.
24. May 2006, the last week: I can do something. I bet there are still treatment options that would make things easier. Perhaps I can get a few more months out of him. He won’t be happy living in bed, but it’s fine with me, who cares what he wants. We'd be able to say goodbye.
25. June 2006, the last two days: I tell visitors to “Tell him you’ll take care of us and that he is free to go if he needs to.”
26. June 2006, the last hours: I can’t do anything. He deserves peace. I want him to be happy but I want him to be here and I can’t do that. Too bad he believes there’s nothing beyond. I know death is real and forever.

How I think he thought about death at different times.
1. Sept. 2004: I will live to see SS’s first soccer game. (So I was reluctant to even let her kick a ball as an infant).
2. Oct. 2005, Dr. Schmaltz: If you think I am just going to give in, you are wrong.
3. Jan. 2005: I will be around for 22 more years, MINIMUM.
4. Feb. 2005: I will see SS graduate from college.
5. Feb. 2005, rejected from IL-2. Nonsense. My heart is perfectly fine. The doctors don’t know my body.
6. Oct. 2005, after reconstructive spine surgery: This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I always win out of sheer dumb persistence with blunt tools. Blunt determination. I’m stubborn. My body is amazing. God made it right but with cracks, but they heal.
7. Jan. 2006: With this new drug, I can be whole again. Miracles do happen. I won’t even need a cane, I will be strong again because I will work hard at it.
8. Feb. 2006: I don't care if it's working, this is NOT living. I am quitting the drug.
9. May 2006: Those people don't know anything. I do NOT have a second type of cancer, I would KNOW if I did. This one is just responding weird to all these new drugs. It might even be a good sign.
10. May 2006: I just want my eye to stop hurting.
11. May 2006: I just want my mouth sores to heal, I just want this dry feeling to go away, I want to be able to eat and taste again without pain.
12. June 2006, the last week, in hospice: Just get me out of here. Why does it hurt so much?
13. June 2006, the last two days: You say you want to help, but why am I still in this place?
14. June 2006, the last 12 hours: Silence, but struggle. He seems to be sorry, seems to reach toward my touch. But I'm projecting, he hasn't been here for hours. I play Joni Mitchell and Leonard Bernstein instead, stupidly, of Patti. But it's not him. It's just barely him. Now it's not even that.

I am fascinated with this paradox of denial, of death in life. I feel like Oedipus who by knowing, for seeing, had to remove his own eyes, but stay in the world with that injury, the loss, the knowledge of that guilt.

We lived these beliefs and they flickered and changed every day. Looking at death so steadily, and only seeing glimpses, and not sure whether I wanted to see or not. You can't look straight at the sun. Come into the light. You can't fly at the sun with wax wings. Your soul will be free.

I look back at the bloggers with dying spouses and what they thought and did in the months and days leading up to the "event." I compare, I contrast, but I'm in a fog, part blind. Was the therapist right -- were we typical? Does that matter? Could we have done it any differently? How do you stay together when one of you is leaving?



A Less Urgent Blogger

I'm somewhat ashamed to be using this immediate, vivid, fast format to process things that happened several years ago. I'm jealous of the urgency of some bloggers who tell the truth about their daily lives each day, and get feedback on what to do. People who make real friends around them in fake space. Women with book contracts and Moms with ad revenues.

I'm almost certain my "new normal" life is going to be boring, and I hope it will be so for a long, long time. I plan to improve myself and raise my child, and remind my inner child it's safe outside.

This life is no story, compared with the horrible medical mishaps and misaligned relationships while my husband was dying -- or the tales of virtual sexual dysfunction spawned by my brief, thrilling foray into the world of 40-something single men.

Now, THOSE are stories. And they will come. I will write out the buried wounds, I swear, as time passes. In the meantime, be patient with me (since I'm not patient with anyone) and come back another time.



Three Girls, and You Can See They Tummy

SS asked me, "Play that song, I was dancing to it with Nellie."

What song is it?

"You know, it go, '(unintelligible) girls, (unintelligible) girls' like that. A girl singing."

I look back and the last played is "I love the nightlife" and then "Call me." At least they are girls singing.

"That not it. Let me see the picture."

That's the other iPod, this one doesn't show the picture.

"YOU KNOW IT! It three girls and you can see they tummy." I was sure it was some teeny-bopper thing, but there is so much stuff on there, and her temper was short, so I gave up.

When Nellie next showed up, we had the answer -- "Typical Girls" from:

I should have known. It was my favorite when I was 16, Nellie's age.


Why Wednesday, and Why in your Kitchen?

Because we're getting married soon, for tax reasons, and that day, at the minister's convenience, and in our kitchen, so we don't have to call it a "rental" and pay a fee.

Today's sermon was a funny, snarky one on marriage whence this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

I like that it mentions the temple, so it sounds a little bit Jewish!

ADDENDUM: Turns out that quote was posed, in the sermon, as one of the BAD attitudes about marriage. I was too moved, busy writing, to listen to the commentary! And yes, that is my beloved minister performed the wedding, with that wording and all.



Native Americans from Mars

Our small friend Hamish is learning so much in preschool. At the holidays, especially. He came home one day last week and told his Moms that the Native Americans did not live on the Earth. Yes, he insisted, they were not on this planet!

Where did this information come from? School! The teacher! A book. He was very sure of it. When it's one of these things, you know that your kid always ends up "right." But whether it's your kid's fertile imagination or small vocabulary or something another kid said that sends them off after a strange idiom, can be a mystery.

Day after day Hamish's Moms tried to discover the source of this problem. They twisted their heads this way and that.

At last, the game of "telephone" was made clear: He had been told that the Native Americans lived "off the land."



Thankful, if not in unison

As often happens, I found myself a little "off" from my fellow congregants last Sunday.

We were reading one of those "responsorials" from the hymnal and I loved the service but was not digging the reading in particular. I am just not good at following, waiting in line, being in time. Yet how I feed off of groups and listen to many things as once.

As I spoke along with everyone, hollowly and a half second off, I was reading this one, just next to it, which fit me at the moment. It seemed perfect, even though it's so much of the spring and I feel so full of fall this year. My birthday is in September, often the first day of school; so I've always felt that fall was really the time when things grow, even though they are not green.

This prayer, #510, reminded me of my gratitude last fall as I started to date, and my happiness now with all the good things in my life, and it resonated with the grieving I feel I have almost left behind:

O spirit of life and renewal.

We have wintered enough, mourned enough, oppressed ourselves enough.

Our souls are too long cold and buried, our dreams all but forgotten, our hopes unheard.

We are waiting to rise from the dead.

In this, the season of steady rebirth, we awaken to the power so abundant, so holy, that returns each year through earth and sky.

We will find our hearts again, and our good spirits. We will love, and believe, and give and wonder, and feel again the eternal powers.

The flow of life moves ever onward through one faithful spring, and another, and now another.

May we be forever grateful.



(Jane Rzepka)




Seems like everyone has a supercold, persistent pneumonia, or is hacking like a wacko.

Q. How will the Avian flu spread itself?
A. Viral marketing.

Leading to the phrase I've heard most often in my life: "I get it, it's just not funny."
And what HF said yesterday, that I realized no one had ever said to me: "I still can't hear you."



What Wd Miss Emily Litella Say?

What's all this I hear about preposition 8? Eight is a number, not a preposition. If someone wants to put a "until" or "to" next to it, I'm not one to object!



Day of the Dead mini-sermon and afternote

I spoke at church today, as part of a "remembrance service."

When we had been together about a year the man I was dating, DH, had a heart valve replaced. Complications brought him a few near-death experiences. We felt that we had been confronted by a huge force and it hadn’t defeated us. In the face of eternity, love mattered. I proposed to him in a hospital bed.

For our honeymoon, we took a “hipsters’ holiday” to Mexico for the Day of the Dead. In Oaxaca, we visited ancient hillside graveyards, where families were spending the night, picnicking, playing music. Kids ran among the humble stones, joyous with sugar and chocolate. Color and crafts and flowers were everywhere.

The Mexican tradition treats death as an extension of life and something that is neither negative nor final. On the Day of the Dead, the veil between the worlds grows thin and spirits come back to visit their families.

This pagan/Catholic tradition is celebrated on Nov. 2, known around the world as “All Souls Day.” So today is perfect timing for this service of remembrance – your loved ones are listening.

Years after my honeymoon, in this home, I hosted a memorial service for LH. This church was a help to me in a thousand ways, great and small, in the two years preceding his death and in the more than two years since.

Two ways stand out, elements of the structure our church provides for mourners, two ways that helped me tremendously.

First, the quilt. After about a year I embroidered LH’s name on the “Summer” quilt at my young widow’s and widower’s grieving group. The next morning I brought the quilt in to daycare with our 4-year-old daughter.

Her friends were dazzled. “Wow! That’s your Daddy’s name?! Cool!” They were pretty blown away. Their tiny fingers explored LH’s name. They couldn’t meet SS’s Dad, but they could see evidence that he was loved and that he was something special.

I had had doubts about showing the kids, but it was right, so listen: Your children will show you the way.

I had more surprises over the year when I responded to the invitation to stand during the moment of silence.

At first it was so, so hard to stand. I was broken and broken up and I felt I was being stared at. There was something okay about being public with this injury. I stood as an emblem but was thankful most of you couldn’t see my face. My lips were clenched tight. Often I cried.

After a time it seemed self-indulgent to stand – there was so much going on outside this peaceful place. I cared for my mother-in-law and my young daughter. I had a financial emergency plan, but no bridge to a normal life. I got really low a couple of times.

One evening in grieving group, a Jewish friend spoke about the one-year unveiling at her husband’s grave. After the guests had left, she cried and went to bed… but the next morning when she woke up she started to work out. She said she felt a new chapter had begun. I was jealous…. but I DID have a religion with a meaningful ritual.

I hardly missed a service that year when I stood. I think every single time it was different. Always the relief and release of singing “When I breathe in…” afterwards.

As time went on I started to feel I was playing a social role as I stood – I was the church’s “official widow.” I considered creating cool black armbands and I was a little proud of my loss. My face relaxed gradually. Sometimes I looked forward to standing. Sometimes I did it to pay tribute to LH or to acknowledge to myself all the challenges we were surviving at the time.

And then it arrived -- one year -- the first Sunday when I didn’t have to stand up. I took it lightly at the time, but slowly or suddenly, things changed. Standing up marked that time in a way I couldn’t deny. The anniversary became a positive step instead of a negative one.

And it was through these simple things that I realized I had found not just a home but a whole family, with creative solutions, and rituals, traditions and a future. A family in which I could choose and play different roles.

Thank you, every one of you.

It was inevitable that watching others speaking of loss, and crying, together in that place reminded me of LH's memorial service. How big an impression Rev. L made when she said it would be perfectly okay for me to give the eulogy, and people would be fine seeing me cry. But I couldn’t do it; I didn’t know what to say, couldn’t have generalized to all his different audiences. It was an invitation to be part of the mourning at the service, not apart from it; but I did not want to be a mourner at all. I didn’t want to expose my injury; I didn’t want to have one.

Plus, some special words I wanted Rev. L to include in the service, I couldn’t find.

Almost a year and a half after LH died, on the Day of the Dead 2007, I hosted a big crazy artsy party and ritual to invoke and remember him. I wanted to make something and give something. In his studio, scrambling my ideas, I found the words.

Suddenly everything fit together. Over LH's 30 year art career he had drawn many lamps, but the paper was the source of the light in his artwork, that soft light which struck people so quietly. So I cut up the last piece of Arches, which he had hung and ready, and gave it out to all the guests, with an essay, and these words from the Buddha which I’d wanted to include in the service:

Therefore, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves. Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the truth as a refuge. Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves. And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, they shall reach the topmost height.



Women over 40! Manifesto

A flashback to February -- a short presentation I made in church as part of a "BYO Manifesto" service:

Women over 40!
1. Get out there and get it!.
2. If you’re already getting it, get more and get it better.
3. SAY IT in your own words to the right person.
4. You are at your peak. Your body is brimming over with wisdom. Don’t let the past or your personality or your godforsaken brilliant brain stop you.
5. Listen to your body when it talks. Ask it a lot of questions. Let it surprise you and ask again later.
6. You’re not any type, and you don't have a type.
7. Never compromise but do be patient.
   a. If you can’t be patient right this minute, that's okay. Try to be patient later. (See how patient you are?)
8. Buy that COSMO in the checkout line.
9. Pun. Listen for your Freudian slips.
10. Find peers and gossip mercilessly with them.
   a. Recruit cheerleaders.
12. Shower.
13. Practice.
14. Learn how to text.
15. Curse like a sailor.
   a. Avoid sailors.
16. Go to a museum. Take ballet classes again. Watch Buffy reruns.
17. Buy your own goddamn jewelry.
18. Laugh as loud as you need to, no matter what.
19. Be dangerously honest in bed.
   a. Always be safe but never worry about security.
20. Don't listen to me too much. You'll find your own way.



The Social WWW (Web We Weave)

It’s finally getting interesting. The first boyfriend (TF), who was perfect and fantastic last December, was around when I started (after Match and Plentyoffish had popped my cherry) to join social networking sites.

So, I asked him to link to me on LinkedIn. I think it was after we slept together, but I can’t remember exactly. Yes, it was clear to me it was a career site, but we had some professional overlap and we had sworn already that we would stay friends, no matter what happened romantically.

Now he’s my only Netflix “friend.” I can find out what he’s watching and how much he likes it. I don’t need this. (Yes, I don’t have to look, but I did once and I didn’t need that). I get updates on who he is meeting from LinkedIn.

See, I didn’t know the web would get this tangled. Not quite true – I knew things would begin to reach a certain density and then I would have to revisit things. But when I lightly changed my “relationship status” to “engaged.” I didn’t quite expect 13 congratulations e-mails almost immediately. There’s a big church contingent on FB and there were another 10 references in person on Sunday (“I hear congratulations are in order…?”) based on what I started to call “my Facebook engagement.”

TF wasn’t on Facebook, or just barely, when we were dating. Now he has a photo and everything, and he can see my basics, including relationship status, even without asking to friend me. He knows I'm still using the pic that helped me net him. I know it’s not my problem, but it is the world that I now live in. Do I ask to be his “friend” so we can at least be open? No, many of my peeps will say, "That's the guy who...?" He might not want that. And should I ask him to get off my LinkedIn? (That seems fine to me, I only have about 80 connections whereas I have more than 150 FB friends. We could still overlap. And we're nominally friendly if not "friends" in that "not dating" sense.).

But I would really like to unlink his Netflix. Wait, new implication: he’s checking what I rent? He knows about “Barbie and the Diamond Castle”?

Yes, we had torrid sex, and yes, he had young kids and was still living at home, and yes, I broke his heart. But if this gets out under my real name, I’m fucking ruined.



I Guess I Do Vote With my Bush

When I started dating, I told myself I didn't care much about politics (on Match, I picked "prefer not to say") but after the date with a guy who said TWO real howlers, I knew I felt differently.

This is what my date said:
(1) "Reagan started out okay, but...."
(2) "The first time I voted for Bush...."

I wasn't sure if it was the politics or that he was dumb enough to say those things on an early date. I fooled myself into thinking that given the public's rage about the war, even a Republican girl might have been turned off.

I had more than enough other evidence that this date was not bright. It was the politics.

And so after that I only took positions with others who shared my positions.



My personal leading economic indicators

I knew something was happening:
  • summer 2007 -- fountain cokes at several lunch joints are flat or improperly syrup'ed.
  • fall 2007 -- increased incidence of food poisoning.
  • winter 2007 -- deli meat has been frozen, texture ruined.
  • nov 1, 2007 -- no one brings leftover Halloween candy in to the office.
  • fall 2008 -- lots of broken windows in neighborhood, with handwritten "we're open" signs.
  • september 2008 -- half of restaurants with flat cokes close.
  • october 2008 -- dumpster divers in Harpers Ferry, W.V., report that grocery stores are no longer throwing out food.
  • november 2008 -- windows still broken, signs still handwritten.
  • nov 1, 2008 -- a little bit of candy makes it in, but you have to ask.



Better late than never

It's bad enough that it takes me until the first week in October to look at the harvest. I find a ton of deliciousness that's gone to seed or squirrels. Among the asters, there are leftovers for us anyway and I'm grateful to have them:


World of difference

I've done the exact opposite of what my mother did for me:
1. I purchased.
2. A Disney.
3. Branded.
4. Character (Belle) Costume for my daughter for Halloween.
5. From a major chain store.
6. At retail.

If only the costume were pink, it would be perfect -- a giant "F.U." to Grandma ER (although I did it to make SS happy, and to avoid any kind of fight, or extra labor, and not as any kind of secret message that bears on my therapy. No, definitely not that.).

Two truths and a lie.

1) I hate Barney the big purple dinosaur. 2) I have developed a plan that could save American businesses a million bucks, but I haven't figured out how to make money from it. 3) I think a goldfish is a perfectly fun pet for a 4-year-old and I am not lying.

I was sharing this list with some old friends of HF and I got a lot of crap from Wild Man, a burly redhead: "No way, fish are HORRIBLE pets, they die all the time. They only live like a week!"

FW: "That doesn't make them a bad pet. Many of the parents I know seem to be getting their young kids a pet in part because it's a good way to teach them about death."

WM: "So you're going to get her a goldfish and name it after her dead father?!"

Then WM's wife hit him, but HF and I laughed our tuchuses off. (For the record, I am pretty sure SS will name it "Jeffrey" or one of the phonetic girls' names -- "Leela," "Lita," "Meeta," "Loolee," etc.).


Palin: the real chatter from the playground

It’s peculiar to me that most of what I’ve heard and read in the "media" (old or new) about Sarah Palin is along the lines of, “How dare you suggest that she won’t do a good job because she has five kids. A man would never have to answer a question like that -- how offensive!” And brilliantly, defensively, of course this argument is being used by the right to make it seem as if feminists are now on the wrong side, more right-wing than the right.

Now come on. What I've heard, and what I would expect to hear as a fellow mother of a young child, has nothing to do with feminism. The line that I hear through the jungle gym, next to the stroller parking area, is more like, “How dare she consider such a demanding job when her poor kids need her.”

Her peers in motherhood and neighborhoods don’t care about her professional competence – we judge her, we question her judgment as a mom. We're perfectly fine feminists, we're just horrible people.

It's sort of like that Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry are talking about wedgies in the locker room:
Elaine: Boys are sick.
Jerry: Well, what do girls do?
Elaine: We just tease someone ’til they develop an eating disorder.


Widows' Bedrooms Redecorating Club (Flashback)

After my first (platonic, psychotic with lust) sleepover with Mr. Perfect, I could write. It did seem that many of my friends were in a conundrum about where to have sex, with such need for comfort of home but those homes so full of memories, and kids, kids with ears and eyes. Fantasizing about my upcoming Hilton date with Mr. P, anticipating two steps ahead (at HOME?), I conjured a vision for my widow BFFs:

Subject: The Widows' Bedrooms Redecorating Club

"I can't do it on that old thing anymore," she said, sipping wearily on her Pomegranate Cosmopolitan. Her eyes turned to the shaggy gray indoor-outdoor rug, 20 years old, stained with grape juice and salted from snowstorms long gone, which lay in the foyer. It was one space in her home that didn't remind her of her late husband, Mortimer, and it was the only place she felt comfortable horsing around with Diego, the stable hand. The surface was unforgiving, chafing them alternately, adding odd scents to their discarded hosiery, and they caught drafts in both hot and cold weather, but the hall provided neutral territory, unattached, unsentimental, and that was what she needed.

Until the Widows' Bedrooms Redecorating Club came into her life. A trio of Corona-clutching cronies in sweatsuits and large diamonds solitaire, they showed up one afternoon on her doorstop, so close to the well-used gray runner, and pushed their way through. "Let us in," they cajoled, wielding measuring tapes, swatchbooks, and the latest Pottery Barn catalog. "We're going to help you get your groove back, the expensive way."

But it didn't really cost that much. They worked together, breaking nails and gulping double JavaChip ExtraWhips as they lay down swatches and pointed out sightlines. "A nice canopy here," one would say. "And this wild jungle toile for curtains!" another would chime in. New linens were ordered; the old torn up and sent to dress the horses' cannons. Baubles and doodads were weighed, purchased with hard earned coin, and lovingly placed next to old mementos and new fakes.

Before she knew it, her bedroom was her own again. Her favorite colors glowed at her from all sides. The sun shone in a new way -- had that dresser really blocked so much light all those years? Pictures of the loving first family spawned there were nicely framed and set up in the front hall to greet visitors, and stay away from the action. A young couple, just setting up home a few miles away, dreaming of late-night wakings by screaming babies, were sleeping in the Freecycled heirloom mahogany California King frame with orthopedic pillow-top.

She smelled the fresh coffee from downstairs. Diego was inside, and he'd slept well.


By jingo!

A friend shares: She is driving her three-year-old on some fast, busy road. She misses a turnoff and exclaims, "Oh G…" (catching herself) "… golly!"

"Mommy, what does 'golly' mean?"

"It's something people say when they are surprised."

From the crease in his tiny forehead she can tell that the little wheels are turning around. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he has figured it out.

"Mommy, Mommy! Does 'golly' mean 'fuck-it?!'"


Why a blog is like a will

You need to start it when you don't think you need it. You'll really benefit from it only when your situation is totally, inconceivably different from when you initiated it.

This is my thought as I read a neighbor's blog. She started it, wrote about her kids and her life, so that then when her husband got a girlfriend she was able to talk.

I started this blog in a flurry one day, but realized after a week of tinkering that I had a clear idea of an audience but nothing worth telling them. My life was already fallen apart with no sign of light. My online diary would have read:
This sucks.
This really sucks.
This totally sucks.
OMG it's the weekend already, and everything still totally sucks.

So I say, never start a blog when you are going through something intense. Write when things are peaceful and you can set aside some time. Then when your world falls apart, you don't have to commit to anything big except survival.

More important -- talk to your loved ones about scary stuff now. Don't be afraid of life insurance. Give your honey permission to love again. If you get a lump somewhere, you'll never be able to deal with these things and they will suffer after you (whether the lump gets you or not).

At the first meeting of my young widow/ers group, I found out I was the only one who had talked about remarriage with their spouse. We had only done that because he'd had a previous health scare. After he got sick -- really sick -- it was too threatening to both of us to do anything concrete. No social security, no life insurance, a lot of things were much more difficult for we survivors. During the almost-two-years he spent dying, we had that magical thinking where we believed that thoughts could make things happen, but our plans could not do anything.

You never know when your story will end. You don't have to be cautious, enjoy your risks as you wish to, but be responsible and generous too. A word to the wise.

So while I was blogless (or publishing a blank blog) for a year and a half, I was sharing in many other ways (believe you me, many). I'll try to go back and recreate some of the missing entries 'cause I'm sure there's some insight in there (plus the wacky dating stories).

You -- DO IT NOW.


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