Saturday, February 26, 2005

It's a Cold—Not the Plague

My son has a cold. No big deal, just the usual runny nose and occasional cough, along with running around and having fun like the crazy nut he is. But today his dad sent me an email (son's at his dad's house today), saying the kid's cough sounds rattly and he wants me to take the kid to the doctor if it doesn't clear up in the next couple of days.

When the kid was a baby he had adorable, edible, chunky baby legs, but has since turned into a string bean (similarly adorable and edible, nonetheless). Takes after his dad that way. When he was still in the chunky-legs phase, though, his dad turned to me and asked, "Do you think his legs are too fat?" My thoughts were:

1. No.
2. Stop worrying.
3. If they are, should we put him on a DIET?? (geez)
4. Are you asking me this because you already think I'm fat and you think I passed down my fat genes?
5. He's a baby, fer chrissakes!
6. I can't believe I'm hearing this.

I think I replied with some slightly muted combination of #1 and #5.

On our way home from the hospital, he wanted to calculate the date of my last period prior to pregnancy one more time, in case he wasn't the father. When I asked him, "Are we going to do this AGAIN?" he backed off and said he'd never mention it thereafter. To his credit, he hasn't.

When we were first taking the kid for immunizations, my son's dad was sure if we started too early we'd make the kid autistic.

He also thought I was sending him secret "fuck you" messages because I wore rings on my middle fingers back then. He told me once that my hair was "pushing [him] away."

So now I have to drag out the common cold information from our former pediatrician (nationally acclaimed, as luck would have it) and possibly get ready to take the kid to the doctor if I can't allay his dad's fears.

It doesn't matter that the kid is bouncing off the walls, feverless, happy as can be, playing with all his toys and video games and eager to go outside. If I don't take him to the doctor and, heaven forbid, the kid is still coughing on Wednesday when he next goes to his dad's house, I'll be labeled "difficult." Not "reasonable," not "level-headed," not "informed," not [fill in the positive adjective of your choice].

This from the man who bought the kid a booster seat for the car and put it in the front seat. Hello, airbags? The same man who used to let our son use a sharp metal stereo shell as a tunnel for his trucks. The same man who...oh, let's face it, said and did a lot of dangerous things.

This is why we're not together.

I have no qualms about doing what I think is right. I consult the books, I ask my folks (who raised four healthy kids), I talk to other moms, I call the doctor and ask the questions, and I take the kid to the doctor when it seems necessary.

In fairness, I suspect my son's dad's worries these days stem from his limited—compared to what it would be if we were married—contact with our boy. Also, as he's over 50, this is likely the only child he will have. (Yes, I know he could father more children, but I doubt he will, especially since he seemed to turn and run when I once told him our son should have siblings.) I can understand his fears, and I suppose I'd feel the same way if I were the one a little bit removed from the day-to-day stuff.

This is what keeps me from going over the edge where he's concerned. This is what helps me maintain some sense of compassion for him.

But it's a pain in the ass sometimes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

My Friend's Cancer Update

On February 11, my dear friend and old college roommate (who now lives about 20 miles from me) emailed me to say she had a brain tumor and that she wanted to stick to email instead of getting a bunch of phone calls. She didn't include a lot of details in her initial email; she just said bad news, brain tumor, meeting with neurologist, stick to email, pray. I emailed her back with prayers and offers of help (babysitting, driving, listening, cooking, whatever), but since that time, I've been sort of in shock and wandering around wondering what was going on. I wanted to honor her request not to call, but I was going nuts not knowing what was happening and not being able to do something. And yes, I know whatever feelings I have/had about the whole thing don't matter. They simply don't matter here.

Today she sent an update and said to feel free to forward it to those we'd asked to pray for her. Although this is the first time I'm posting about her health situation, I'm posting her email in case any readers can spare some prayers or positive thoughts. She's doing much better, and there's still a bit more to do. She's all about information; really, she's Ms. Science, so I know she's got the information she needs and will do everything she's supposed to do. I love her so much and want her to get better so she can enjoy her kids and husband, and so they'll have her for a long time, too.


Dear Everyone,

I wanted to thank you all for your prayers, cards and notes. Your support has been so amazing. I am truly grateful!

I wanted to update everyone.

The doctor feels the surgery was very successful. He removed more than 90% of the tumor. I came home from the hospital on Monday and my pain has been minimal--most of the time I feel fine. Each day my balance, muscle control, and peripheral vision have greatly improved. In fact today the doctor gave me clearance to drive again, and I am no longer limited to picking up no more than 5 pounds--which means I can pick up Alex! (HOORAY! She's about 18 pounds.) Also, I am finished taking anti-inflammatory steroids, and have resumed nursing Alex.

The 6-inch scar on the back of my head is healing well and today all of the staples were removed. (A few small metal plates are permanent!) I've discovered that scarves are a valuable fashion accessory.

As of right now the pathology report still isn't in. Until we get that information I won't know whether I'm in a monitor 4 times each year type of phase or in a more aggressive treatment type of phase. I will update you when I know.

Once again I wanted to thank you for all of your help. Please feel free to forward this note on to those you've asked to pray for me.

All of my love and gratitude!


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Boing, Boing...

So today it was pouring rain and my son wanted me to put up the inflatable bed I purchased for my sister's visit this past weekend. Turns out the "squishy bed" is way too exciting to be used for resting. Despite the kid's best attempts to fall asleep on it tonight, he just couldn't do it, and I had to move him after a while so he could really settle down. But now I have a huge, queen-size, double-height inflatable bed right behind my desk chair, and a thin path around it. I'm thinking the bed will have to get put away tomorrow and the kid will have to play with, well, toys.

*gasp* :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I'm a Serious Journalist, Damn It! Yes, I Am! Am Too!

Nothing chips away at one's professionalism like a four-year-old taking a very vocally descriptive dump eight feet away from one's desk, where one is conducting a telephone interview with an entrepreneur.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

These Things Take Time

Heh. Back when I was first dating through newspaper personal ads, before Internet dating, I had lunch with a pleasant screenwriter in Los Angeles. We'd spent some hours over a week or two in phone conversations during the wee hours, since he was a total night owl and I was between jobs and staying up all night.

Anyway, I just read some entertainment news today and noticed the screenwriter's name associated with a project slated to star Meg Ryan. I wonder if that's the screenplay he sold a few weeks before we met—that would make it at least 10 years between his selling the screenplay and the studio's signing Meg Ryan to star in the movie.

Allison Burnett and I had some fun, benign phone chats but didn't feel a spark when we finally met. Still, I'm tickled for him. I remember he lived in a quaint Craftsman bungalow around the corner from Nicole Brown Simpson's former place; he said he sold his screenplay for something like $100K at the time, and bought a Volvo as soon as he got paid.

After some dutiful poking around online I see he's a wildly successful writer.

I doubt he's still driving that Volvo. ;-)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Don't Wanna Get Involved?
Don't Get Me Started

Last night I took my son to the mall to burn off some energy. It had been been pouring rain around here and between that and my having a cold we'd been housebound for about two days. We ducked into McDonald's for a bite and as I was setting our food on a table, a woman at an adjacent table stood up and said, "Would somebody please help me? Please help me? I'm fainting..." so I grabbed her as she passed out.

She was a little heavier than I could handle and I couldn't get her back in her chair or safely onto the floor, so there I was, just hanging onto her, trying to keep her from falling. I kept looking around the packed restaurant and everyone was watching, and I was asking for help (and trying to keep an eye on my son, who was patiently waiting for me—go figure)...and no one lifted a damn finger.

After the requisite slowing down of my thought process and silly consideration of my normally ladylike (well, mostly) demeanor, I got mad and literally screamed at the top of my lungs, "Somebody help me fer God's sake!!" and got two or three people to help me get the woman lying down and call the paramedics. I mean, what does it freakin' take to get people to MOVE?

The paramedics came and took over. It turned out the woman had just donated blood and her blood pressure was pretty low. The paramedics had her lying on the floor with her feet up for quite a while, and when they tried to put her in a wheelchair, she started to pass out again. When I finally left they were going to send her to the hospital, but she seemed like she was going to be okay eventually.

I'm still sorta angry about what happened, though. I can still see people's blank eyes as they just watched what was going on. I know it's possible that some people didn't know what was going on, but the people right near me could hear me and made eye contact with me...and still didn't get their asses up. One guy even made direct eye contact with me, smirked slightly and looked away. I couldn't believe it.

I mentioned the incident to my sister-the-shrink, and she brought up the much-studied Kitty Genovese murder and the theory of "diffusion of responsibility"—the idea that the more people there are as witnesses, the longer it will take for someone to react, because everyone thinks someone else will do everyone does nothing.

From one article:

"One dynamic brought forth was the Bystander Effect. This theory
speculates that as the 'number of bystanders increases, the
likelihood of any one bystander helping another decreases.' As a
result, additional time will pass before anyone seeks outside help
for a person in distress. Another hypothesis is something called the
Diffusion of Responsibility. This is simply a decrease in the
feeling of personal responsibility one feels when in the presence of
many other people. The greater the number of bystanders, the less
responsibility the individual feels. In cases where there are many
people present during an emergency, it becomes much more likely that
any one individual will simply do nothing.

"In essence, the 38 witnesses felt no responsibility to act because
there were so many witnesses. Each one felt that the other witness
would do something. Social psychology research supports the notion
that Catherine Genovese had a better chance of survival if she had
been attacked in the presence of just one witness."

Other information online mentions, in conjunction with the Bystander Effect, the difficulty some people have in determining whether or not something is actually an emergency. That is, if a lot of people witness an incident and no one is doing anything, people will take their cues from their peers and do nothing, believing it must not be an emergency if no one is doing anything, and that their peers would be reacting if it were an emergency.

Sheep. The whole thing—including my discomfort with the idea of yelling at a restaurant full of people—makes me sick.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

On Fear, Courage and Change:
Writing in Lieu of—or As—Meditation

Originally uploaded by S u e s s.

Yesterday I thought I'd like to attend the Quaker meeting in La Jolla today, and I sort of prepared myself for it. I say "sort of" because I think if I'd really prepared myself for it I wouldn't have fallen asleep on the couch, woken up around 2:00 a.m., wondered if I even had anything clean to wear to the meeting, gone back to sleep around 5:00 a.m. and hit the snooze button on my clock a few times when it started buzzing at 7:30 a.m.

I mean, does that sound like someone who wants to go?

I wound up getting out of bed around 8:30 a.m., turning on the computer with the intention of looking up the proper directions to the meeting house, then messing around with email until about 9:00 a.m.—the time that I knew it would be too late to comfortably get ready and arrive in time. Somewhere in my semi-not-un-conscious, I knew if I waited long enough it would be too late and the decision not to go with be mostly out of my hands.

My son's dad would say this is how I had the baby. "You were fearful! You fought it! You went kicking and screaming all the way!" he has said, not referring to labor, but to the nine months leading up to the grand event. His opinion is irrelevant. He's often criticized me as a means of deflecting attention from his own shortcomings and insecurities; it's taken me a while to learn this.

Just the same, he's wrong. I made the decision to have the baby—our beautiful son—the minute the lines appeared on the stick. I'd sat on the edge of the cold bathtub that morning, waiting as my son's dad slept, and when I could wait no longer (much less than the recommended five minutes), I peeked. Pregnant. I knew then that my life would be changed forever. It was as if I were suddenly whisked down a tunnel of sorts, to a life I'd only half-imagined. Really, it was a physical feeling, and my surroundings and my life literally snapped into sharper focus. I don't think I ever considered not having the baby.

Yes, there were some moments when my son's dad was being less than wonderful and I doubted my decision, but I never doubted it more than a few minutes. I never imagined not having the baby, regardless of whether or not my son's dad shaped up.

And yes, I was terrified all the way. Terrified into paralysis at times. If you read our court papers you will learn I didn't pack my hospital bag (somehow a sin or indicator of parental and overall incompetence, according to my son's dad), although in hindsight I see that it wouldn't have mattered if I had.

I've sometimes wondered, particularly after one of my son's dad's accusations of being fearful, what courage is. Is it not being afraid, or is it being afraid and acting from one's heart just the same?

(Yes, terminating a pregnancy can sometimes be the right decision and I don't mean to imply that it is not also courageous to do so. I don't know what's right for others in most regards and I try to leave it to them to figure out. Sometimes I do well at this and sometimes I think I need more practice.)

There's a lot of value in the expression, "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

I have some changes coming up that scare me, but they need to happen if I'm to live as a whole person. (No, I'm not pregnant.) I'm not wild about change; I prefer to have things sorted out and then operate within the framework I've set up. It's hard for me to take the steps necessary to change, and I fear I may put things off until it's too late to take the steps...and the decision will have been made for me.

I don't want that to happen.

Luckily I have some people in my life who support what I'm about to do, to the point of physically being with me as I navigate the options. That is the purest kind of support—the kind that actually brings tears to my eyes. Still, I'm the one who will have to do the work.

I must make it happen, and I must not wait too long.

I am afraid, and it is okay.

Fear is not the end of the story.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Some Messes I Like

Today I got a call from a client who needed two documents edited pronto. Since the bathroom is about four feet from my computer, I plopped my young'un in the tub (he loves to play in there forever) when it came time to work on the second file. As I worked I mumbled to myself, as I'm prone to do.

"Hmm (mumble-mumble)...looks like this file is sort of messy (mumble-mumble)...but that's a good thing, since it means I'm in demand (mumble-mumble)..."

My son overheard me, climbed out of the tub and asked, "What's messy, Mommy?"

"Oh, the files I'm working on are sort of messy, hon. It's a good thing they're a little messy, because my job is to clean them up," I told the naked and dripping child.

He pondered this for a moment, then said, "But I thought you didn't like messes."