Saying goodbye

Ollie and his great-grandparents

My grandmother died quite suddenly on Veteran’s Day. Since she was “only” eighty-eight, and the youngest of my four grandparents, all living until 2009, I wasn’t prepared. In retrospect it seems ridiculous to not be prepared when someone’s eighty-eight, but that seemed young, especially because she was so active and energetic.

Ollie was very close to her, his “GG” (great-grandmother), and as I frantically made plans to visit with her one final time, Jason and I struggled to explain what was happening. It’s been hard for him to comprehend, and it’s led to lots of awful questions and statements.

Ollie and GGPa

Now my grandfather, after losing his wife of sixty-six years, with his health already in decline, is nearing his end. We’ve had more time to warn Ollie of what’s imminent and about once a week I sit with Ollie to talk about it.

Ollie’s not entirely clear on the concept of marriage, so often he’ll ask my father if my mother is his “friend”, and sometimes he’ll say she’s his special friend. I like this idea of marriage.

The other day Ollie and I had a talk about GGPa. I told him GGPa’s old body wasn’t working anymore, and that very soon he would die. I started to cry.

“It’s ok, Mommy,” he said softly, looking at me, “because when he dies he can go in the same hole as GG! And they’ll be together, because they’re special friends.”

Somehow that’s the most comforting thing I’ve ever heard.

My Grandma & Grandpa

Four resolutions for the new year

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I think if you want to make a change you should just do it, no matter where you are in the year. But maybe because I’m older, or in a more reflective phase, or maybe simply because a few changes have occurred to me and it happens to be the start of a new year, I’m making some resolutions.

Resolution #1: Write fiction.
Write more fiction, and by more I mean, write fiction. After lots of creative writing in the eighties and early nineties, I drained my fiction well, or something, because I haven’t written a story since about 1994. But I’ve been remembering how it felt to write stories, how I’d disappear into the world I was imagining. And I want to experience that again. Also I have ideas for stories bubbling.

Resolution #2: Write for Megnut.
I’ve fallen into a variety of traps that have kept me from writing here. Aside from the lack of time (which is really a lack of prioritization), the other excuses will be ignored and overcome.

Resolution #3: Have Wants Driven By Need
More production is countered by less consumption. I’ve noticed that a lot of magazines and websites I visit show me things to buy. Mostly they are things I didn’t think I wanted or needed before I saw them in the pages of Martha Stewart Living (as an example, because I find it so blatant there lately, and in stark contrast to how the magazine used to be). I like to buy a thing because I need it. But it’s hard to resist the lure of such pretty stuff highlighted in all the design blogs and magazines, and the curating sites like Svpply and Pinterest. So no more reading/subscribing to media that makes me want stuff I don’t really need (or probably don’t even want, except for in the fleeting moment that caviar sounds like a good idea, or some lovely La Lune print can be imagined hanging over my bed…)

Resolution #4: Read More Books
As I try and escape the magazines and blog posts, I discover I’ve lost my reading muscle. Sure I can handle a gripping tale like the Lost City of Z but there’s plenty of good reading out there that takes a bit of work, effort I used to be able to put in. But I’m lazy now, easily sated by 140 character tweets and 500 word articles. My mind drifts reading a longer book. But no more! I’m reading books this year, as many as possible, until I get back into reading shape.

Is there a Resolution #5? Probably but then I’d get into the usual, all the time resolutions that I live with daily: enjoy time with kids, smell the flowers, get to the gym daily, eat healthy food, cook more, worry less, etc. etc. That’s like my to-do list though. So I’ll start with these four resolutions. Here’s to a year of making more. And desiring less.

Trouble with sunscreen

My hate-love relationship with sunscreen has taken a turn back to hate. Until I discovered Neutrogena’s Sport Sunblock (and then their UltraSheer) I simply couldn’t stand the stuff. But oh Neutrogena! It was weightless, it didn’t even feel like you were wearing anything. For years I slathered myself happily and regularly.

Recently my father sent me a link to the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. And I discovered that my beloved sunscreen had a terrible rating! Worse, I felt horrible about putting it on my kids. So I bit the bullet and switched to some brands they recommended, all of which use physical barriers (as opposed to chemical) to block the sun’s rays. Guess what? YUCK. I applied sunscreen yesterday morning and I swear I’m still coated in the stuff! It does not budge, not even with a loofa and body wash scrub-down.I’m totally bummed because I know this is “better” but the other stuff was so nice! Once I’m done breast-feeding I’m tempted to switch back.

4 Stages of Seeing Pregnant Women

Walking around Manhattan the other day I realized there are four stages of "Woman Seeing Pregnant Women on the Streets."

Stage One: You don't see them at all. You're pre-kids and you don't even notice things like pregnant bellies, even though you're surrounded by them.

Stage Two: "Oh I wish that was me!" You pine.

Three: "Hey! You're pregnant! Me too! Her too! All of us! Gosh, she looks big! Do I look that big?" You're there! You're surrounded by your pregnant sisters everywhere you look!

Four: "O.M.G. I'm so so so so so so so so happy I'm not pregnant."

Needless to say, I am at stage four.

The importance of first aid

red_cross.gifA little over half an hour ago, I was walking home down Seventh Avenue after doing some errands. As I neared the supermarket, I saw a small crowd gathered around what appeared to be a person lying face down on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. I stopped and asked if I could help out. Someone was on the phone to 911, another told me the elderly woman had just tripped on the sidewalk and fallen face first down to the ground. I told her I was certified in first aid and asked if I could assist her. I sent someone into the supermarket for a first aid kid. I asked her name, her age, her address. She didn't want help, she said, she wanted to walk home. She said she was fine.

But she wasn't. Emily was 81 and she was alone. She was bleeding all over the place, but from where? A cut on her head? Her nose? I asked her to stay with me and we talked about her routine of getting groceries, about what she'd bought. Anytime she realized we were waiting for the ambulance, she tried to get up and said she just wanted to go home. So I asked her to sit with me and tell me about her weekend, and how she was managing in the hot weather. People brought out ice packs from the gym, water and paper towels from the market. I'd put on the gloves from the first aid kit, and cleaned her up a bit, but mostly I just talked to her and held her hand.

Two doctors happened by which made her nervous again. They tried to check her out a bit and we got her sitting up and then moved to a bench, only because she kept trying to stand on her own. We really wanted her to stay where she was. Finally after ten minutes the ambulance arrived (outrageous really, as St. Vincent's is only two blocks north!) and I was able to talk to the EMTs and they took over. I picked up my bags and walked home, hoping that Emily would accept their help, wondering if I should have stayed to take her home.

It's kind of crazy, I was certified in first aid and CPR for years back in the eighties and early nineties and never used it once. I got re-certified a little over a month ago and it sounds weird to say, but I'm happy I was able to use it. I'm happy I was able to arrive in the crowd and know what to do. Walking home, I realized being certified isn't necessarily about providing the aid. I didn't stop the bleeding, though it subsided on its own. I didn't try to examine her. This was in part because she refused my help initially but also because I knew the ambulance would be along soon. Mostly it was about providing comfort to someone in a difficult situation, helping them feel ok, and letting them know they weren't alone. The certification gave me the confidence to do that: to kneel on the sidewalk, holding an old woman's hand, and to help make those scary few minutes hopefully just a little bit better.

If you're not certified in first aid, I can't recommend it strongly enough. It takes four hours of your time at your local Red Cross and with what you'll learn, maybe you'll be able to assist someone like Emily one day.

Some photos from Mexico

Self-portrait in new sombreroUnlike other trips (e.g. Ireland and Asia) I have stopped obsessing over my photos and decided to just go ahead and throw some up on Flickr so that others can actually see them! Honeymoon photo set on Flickr is now available for your viewing pleasure. I don't feel like the photos turned out as well as I'd hoped, and I also didn't take as many as I wanted to. One thing that's missing is some sense of the small town of Tulum, near where we stayed. But every time we were there it was either a) night or b) too hot to walk around and take pictures. So the collection is lacking a lot of what our daily experience was, and a sense of that general Mexican town. Perhaps with another trip, I'll be able to capture more of that.

Back to reality

Ghosts in Mexico

We're back from our honeymoon in Mexico and it was totally excellent. Though this photo is a bit weird, I kind of like it so it's the first one I've posted from the trip. I took a bunch of long exposure night shots, just for fun. This is a portrait I took of us on the deck of our cabaña. Those specks of white are stars. More details about the picture at Flickr, just click on it to see. Now that I'm back, there's lots to do. Mostly though I just feel like looking through my photos and remembering the great time we had.