Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Her Grandmother's Granddaughter


How I wish you could have met her. She reminds me so much of you -- she has blue eyes like yours, and her laugh is infectious.  Her favorite color is pink.  You would have seen the irony in that.

She loves to sing.  We sing good morning to each other and we make up silly songs.  Sometimes we sing the Frozen soundtrack at the top of our lungs in the car.

She loves to cuddle with me.  In the evening, before bedtime, she curls up next to me on the couch. She talks a lot now. Sometimes she tells me about her day, or about what we are watching on TV.

We like to read books together.  She likes to point at the pictures and tell me what she sees. Sometimes she asks what the word is, and then she repeats it in the cutest little tentative voice.  It feels like she is learning 100 words a day.

When she wakes up too early, I take her in the big bed with me for a cuddle.  I am instantly transported back, 30-plus years and a couple hundred miles, to the big bed in the house in New Jersey.  I can still feel how much I was loved.  If nothing else, I hope to pass that on.

We miss you every day, but especially today.  Happy birthday.

(also posted at the OliRue baby blog)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Landline

In the new house, we have a landline phone. Not that we really wanted or needed it -- after all, we live in a cellular world -- but the cable company gave it to us for free as part of our package. 

And so, almost six years after I last used them, I found myself pulling phones out of a box. The one corded phone had old batteries in it, and so it had to be thrown out.  Storing something away like that -- carelessly -- is so very unlike me.  But I remembered why I didn't take the batteries out in the first place: I didn't want to lose the last caller ID from my mom. 

It's gone now. 

And I threw out the phone. My husband says that's because I'm not crazy. Sometimes I'm not so sure. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Thankful November, 17-30

Since the last installment, we had a difficult two weeks.  It started, as usual, with work and the horrible schedule where my husband works early mornings and weekends.  Add to that the chaos of birthday/Thanksgiving/Hanukkah all at once, and on top of that, all three of us were sick at the same time.

Then I got the crazy call that a friend  and former coworker was dying.

All that has made it extraordinarily hard to find things to be thankful for, but I've been trying.  Ultimately, the hardest part was finding the time to write the words down.  So here goes:

17.  I am thankful for modern technology.  I said before that I never, ever want to live without a washer and dryer.  Add dishwasher to that list.  I am so thankful to not have to do those chores by hand.  And the computer and cell phone? I can't even think about how much easier they make my life.

18.  I am thankful for pie.

19.  I am thankful for the Trader Joe's jarred cranberry sauce.  It was a definite upgrade over the canned variety.

20.  I am thankful for my nephews and niece.  I am looking forward to seeing all of them before too long.  This year, I am extra thankful that my daughter is an age where she will get to have fun playing with her cousins.  Many of my fondest childhood holiday memories involve times spent with my cousins; I can only hope that her memories are even better.

21.  I am thankful for vacation days spent with my family.

22.  I am thankful for going back to work after vacation -- because so much time off with a toddler hardly qualifies as such.

23.  I am thankful for my daughter's school. They take such good care of her there.  She really likes going, even on those days when she really doesn't want me to drop her off.

24.  I am thankful for the many years that my mother woke me up at the crack of dawn to do Black Friday holiday shopping.  It was exhausting, and at the time, I was your typical grumpy, frustrated, teenager -- but now, I am glad to have the memories of being her trusty sidekick.

25.  I am even more thankful for the internet -- and thus, the fact that I never have to subject myself to the Black Friday hordes again.

26.  I am thankful that most of my holiday shopping is already finished.

27.  I am thankful for the birthdays that have passed, the experiences they've left behind, and the person that they've made me.

28.  I am thankful for the birthdays yet to come.

29.  I am thankful for my dad.  He is crotchety; he is peculiar; he is anti-social. He is weird and strange, and occasionally funny, too. In some ways, he is a horrible parent and grandparent -- he is non-communicative and not very present or involved.  But in the ways that are important, like being there when you need him and helping however he can, he still always manages to be a very good dad.

30.  I am thankful for my husband.  Each and every day, even when it takes all we have just to get through the chaos that is work and baby, I am always thankful that he's the person I chose to take this journey with.  Everything is so much easier when the partner by your side is also your friend.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thankful November, 6-16

6.  I am thankful that my daughter has become a pretty good sleeper.  Life is much better when your kid goes to sleep most nights without much of a fuss and then generally sleeps through the night.  I do occasionally wish she woke up a bit later, but it seems like she's like her grandmother and great-grandfather (her namesake), and is a morning person.

7.  I am thankful for my job.  I am always busy and never seem to have enough time to get everything finished, but I really do like it most days.

8. I am thankful that, every night, when I come home from work, my daughter smiles, stops what she is doing, and runs up to me to give me the biggest, best hug in the world.  I don't even mind that most of the time, she inadvertently rubs boogers or food all over my work clothes.  The hug is that good.

9.  I am thankful for books.  They are, and always have been, my favorite things.  I do wish I had more time to read grownup books, though.  Around here lately, we're pretty much only reading children's books.  As a corollary, I am thankful that my daughter seems to have inherited my love for books.  Every night, we read a handful of books, but always end with the same two.  My husband and I know them by heart, and I think the baby does too.  She always laughs at one part where I yawn, pretending to be a very sleepy cow.

10.  I am thankful for the washer and dryer in my condo.  I hope to never live in a place with community machines again.

11.  I am thankful to be as old as I am and to still have a grandparent around.

12.  I am thankful for being able to have a cleaning service come every other week. I am also thankful that, for all those years that I didn't really need it, I kept it up.  Because, boy do we need it now.

13.  I am thankful that my daughter makes me laugh every day.

14.  I am thankful for Ikea.  This morning, I took a quick trip down there to buy my daughter's big holiday present -- an easel.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, she really likes to color.  She sits on the floor, with her markers or crayons, and sings to herself while hard at work on her masterpieces. Obviously an easel is the next step.

15.  I am thankful that I get to take occasional weekend afternoon naps.

16.  Right now, this minute, I am thankful for the little bit of quiet time to myself.  Ordinarily, I'd be asleep, but I took a nap this afternoon, and as a result, am wide awake.  But a little quiet time after my husband and daughter are asleep is the only reason I can catch up on this list.  And read a little bit of a grown-up book.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Thankful November, number 5

Today, I am thankful for living in a country where I have the ability to vote, even if I dislike the current state of the two-party system and most of their candidates.

I am equally thankful for the fact that, as of tomorrow, there will be no more election ads on television, at least for a little while.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thankful November, numbers 1-4

At this point, I've come to terms with the fact that I'll probably never finish writing a novel -- particularly over the span of a NaNoWriMo.  I am very keenly aware that, at the rate that I've been writing, I'm not even likely to complete a NaNoBloPoMo (or whatever it's called).  But I can find many, many things to be grateful about this month, and so I will make an effort to post them.  One for each day this month, just maybe not every day.  And, of course, I'm starting late.

It's November 4th, so here are four:

1.  This face.

The real Cookie Monster.

2. The fact that my husband didn't make fun of me when I told him that I generally prefer Van Halen with Sammy Hagar and not David Lee Roth.

3.  The caramel brulee latte at Starbucks.

4.  Trader Joe's milk chocolate salted caramel butter cookies.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Baseball shoes

Yesterday, we took a family trip to the ballpark. The husband, the kid, and I dressed up in our team colors and went to our first game together this season -- our first game together since last year's playoffs.

Mommy-Baby bonding.
I have a cut on my foot -- a blister from a pair of ballet flats that I wore to work last week -- so I tried to find a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes to walk around in, particularly since I was going to be carrying the baby in the Ergo all day. I settled on a pair of grey Pumas, old, but not too old. What that means is that I've owned them as long as I've lived in this condo, but I did not own them when I moved to DC from Florida. I'm certain that I have not had them for over 10 years, but I am also certain that they're more than 5 years old.

While we were on our way to the ballpark, I felt that there was something sticky on the bottom of my shoe. "Great," I thought. "Old gum."

We started walking, and the feeling went away. We walked around the stadium, fed the baby some gelato, and then, I went into the bathroom to wash my hands. For some reason, I looked down at my feet, and was astonished. My shoes were literally falling apart -- the sole had split into pieces and the padding was falling out in chunks. I was leaving a trail of sneaker bits behind me as I walked. It was worse than when I was living in London and the only pair of casual shoes I had with me were Chuck Taylors with the hole in the heel.

So, I did what any rational woman would do: I sent my husband to the gift shop to see if he could find me a solution. He came back with a pair of blue flip flops with red sequins. Team colors. Also: ostentatious and hideous. He also told me that they had black ballet flats, but that they cost $80.

I have the best, smartest husband. And now, I no longer have a pair of cute, grey Pumas, but I do have a pair of hideous, blue flip-flops with red sequins.
Nice shoes, right?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Five Years

I can't believe five years have passed since that day, that horrible, wretched day. But I'm having a hard time getting the words out this time. It feels like I've already said it, over and over again.

I still miss my mom, every single day. I look at my beautiful, amazing little daughter -- who has her grandmother's eyes -- and I am just so sorry that the two of them never got to meet each other. I hug the baby just a little bit tighter when I think about it. On the one hand, I want to shield her from such loss; on the other, I know that's not healthy for her or for me. I want her to be brave and strong, and you don't get that way if you're raised in a bubble.

And then I finally see that there's a silver lining, a small consolation prize from all of this crazy grief over the past five years: my mother's death made ME stronger. Maybe that's the last gift she gave me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

New Year, Resolved.

Before my husband and I got married, we discussed our vows, and agreed that the foundation of our marriage is that we both promise to try to not be an asshole to the other. When we looked in each other's eyes on the beach while repeating back the minister's words, that is what we meant. We may have said a lot of words, but that was our only promise. It's a promise that we can both keep.

That brings me to New Years' resolutions. I hate them for that very reason: they are promises that are not likely to be kept. I've said so before. But every year, better judgment notwithstanding, there are always a few things that I promise myself that I am going to do better.

This year, there are three of them: (1) Be healthier; (2) Be better with money; and (3) Try not to accumulate things that I don't need.

There's some overlap. If we eat healthier, home-cooked meals, we are likely to save money. If I don't buy things we don't need, we will also save money. Still, all of this is a challenge.

My husband and I have been good over the past eight days. We've made healthy meals, gone out less frequently -- and ordered more salads when we have. I think I've eaten more vegetables in the past 8 days than in the past 8 months! And, other than a cute outfit for the baby (on clearance at Babies-R-Us!), a toy or two for her (now that she's almost 6 months, the toys are way better!), and some (clearance!) ornaments for our Pagan Winter Solstice Shrubbery, I haven't really bought anything that was not addressing some kind of immediate need.  I mean, maybe we didn't need quite so many boxes of oatmeal...but they were on sale and we will eat it, sooner rather than later.

I'm also going to try two different approaches to save a little bit extra cash. In one savings account, I am going to save $1 per day, for a total of $365 (duh!). In another, I am going to save $1 the first week, $2 the second week, $3 the third week...and so on, for a grand total of $1378. Not sure yet what I'm going to do with that $1743, but I hear that college will be very expensive in 2030. (Sigh.)

Wish me luck.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Gasoline and Matches

My heart broke last week when I heard about the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. My daughter is the most precious thing in the world to me, and I can't imagine what it must have been like for these parents to send their babies off to school on a morning like any other, to only have them not come home again. I cry when I think about it. I cried again on Monday, when I dropped the baby off at her school and got a letter explaining the security protocol in the wake of the tragedy.

"We keep the doors locked."

This morning, when the baby and I were leaving the condo on the way to school and work respectively, a guy got in to the elevator, holding at least three guns, and several duffel bags. I can only imagine what was in the bags -- ammo, more guns? Instinctively, I pulled the stroller closer to me, away from the guns. What would have happened if this guy was angry, violent, unstable? We would have had no defense.

We live in a world where merely riding in an elevator puts my daughter at risk. How are such things even fathomable? And, perhaps more importantly, how are such things preventable?

Whatever it is that we're doing isn't working.  But what, exactly is it that we're doing? The conservatives/Republicans/pro-gun-advocates and the liberals/Democrats/anti-gun-advocates are busy calling each other names, lying to the people, ignoring the facts, ignoring reality. No one is talking about compromise or trying to find solutions that can and will work in real life.

The NRA just held a press conference where they said all sorts of ridiculous things. That the Newtown tragedy was the result of violent video games, and that guns are not to blame. That what this country really needs is a database tracking the mentally ill -- not, for argument's sake, a database tracking gun owners.  There should be armed police officers in every school. That the cure for gun violence is more gun ownership and less regulation. I could go on, but it makes me ill to think about it.

And, almost simultaneously, there was another mass shooting taking place, this time in Pennsylvania.

Almost everything said in the NRA press conference makes my head spin because it defies logic and reason -- and statistics. There is no statistical link between violent video games and gun violence. (Note: there is, however, a link between violent video games and being desensitized to violence.Countries with stronger gun regulations have less gun violence. More guns means more gun violence. And, compared with other developed countries, the United States is particularly violent.
"Violence begets violence." --  Martin Luther King, Jr.
To be fair, I am not a particularly strong advocate for guns. Back in the days when I used to write with more regularity, I wrote about how, a billion years ago, in my last semester of law school, I worked as an intern in the office of the public defender. When I was working there, defending my clients against various misdemeanor charges, many of my friends were interning on the other side, in the State Attorney's office, and several of them thought that I needed to get a gun, or at least learn how to fire a gun, for my own safety. But I resisted. I was scared of guns in general, and wary that just by my having a gun, I would be able to protect myself. At 5'2" (in shoes) and (at that point in time) 115 lbs (soaking wet), if someone wanted to overpower me, they probably could, gun or no gun. In my mind, rightly or wrongly, the consequences of letting them get my gun were worse than my not having one at all. (Note: according to the statistics, I was probably right.)

I also wonder about the mix of guns with violence and instability, the sort of things that people don't talk about in public. But I know about that too. I have siblings, and one of my siblings had a difficult adolescence. That sibling was angry and unhappy, and often threatened violence. It was in the days before Columbine; in the days before such things were even thinkable. But there it was: many times, my sibling threatened to stab me in my sleep, threatened our parents the same way, threatened to hurt others, threatened self-harm. We all came out of it okay, thanks to therapy and the fact that adolescence does, eventually, end, and whatever it is or was seemingly became more manageable in adulthood. But when I think about it -- which I try not to -- I am glad that my parents didn't keep weapons in the house. In a rage, a gun would have made it too easy for something awful to happen. Instability, mental illness, violence -- they might be gasoline, but a gun is the lit match.

So, we're back to the guns and the violence, and whether there is anything we can do about it.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." -- Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, Dec. 21, 2012.
I heard him say that during the press conference and I chuckled. It may be true, but you know what?  It's much easier for the good guy to stop the bad guy if said bad guy doesn't have a gun in the first place. The statistics maintain that keeping the bad guy from getting the gun is likely to stop the fiasco before it starts: "Making crime even a little bit harder made it much, much rarer."

Given the opportunity, I would want guns to disappear from the earth, or at least the country. But that's wishful thinking: guns are legal, abundant, and, as my husband said to me, "You can't put the genie back in the bottle."

That's not to say that I think all guns and gun owners are bad. For example, I don't necessarily agree with hunting for sport, but I know avid hunters, and, with the laws as they are, I have no problem with them having guns. The hunters I know are responsible gun owners. They bought their guns legally, they know how to use them, and they keep them safely locked.

Responsible gun owners know that the "right to bear arms" is not absolute:
 "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."  -- District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
(Note: I don't necessarily agree with the majority in Heller; I tend to think that Scalia's interpretation of the Second Amendment's language and meaning is a little tortured. But it is the law of the land, and it at least represents an acknowledgment from our most Conservative Supreme Court justice that the government can, in the right circumstances, enact reasonable limits to gun ownership.)  Responsible gun owners realize that, with any right comes responsibility: they are not the ones buying crazy insane assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and bullets designed to tear through body armor. They are not the problem.

But what about the Newtown shooter? His mom acquired the guns legally, and shot them as a hobby. But was she a responsible gun owner? In my view -- based on the "facts" as we've learned them -- no. Forget the number or type of weapons, or the size of the magazine. She taught an ostensibly mentally unstable kid how to shoot, and did not secure her weapons from him, or at least didn't secure them well enough. She dropped the lit match on the gasoline.

And for other recent mass shootings? All of them, legal. The gunman in Oregon borrowed his weapon, which was legally purchased. The Colorado theater shooter stockpiled his guns and ammo legally. The Virginia Tech shooter got his gun from an online dealer.

This country is between a rock and a hard place. We have a society where mental health issues are stigmatized and often left untreated. We have lax gun control laws because the Second Amendment allows for gun ownership, subject only to undefined (and largely un-enacted) "reasonable" limitations. We have a weapons market that permits guns to be obtained legally obtained and used in increasingly horrific, violent crimes.

We can't ban 'em, and we can't control 'em. Gasoline and match.