Thursday, September 18, 2008

How do you prepare for this?

How do you prepare yourself for this?
For this kind of loss, this kind of grief?
You've known for months, quite a few months
that this could be the way things would play out.
Yet how can you possibly prepare for this?

Mourning a boy is not the same as mourning a man.
The face, the smooth skinned face of a boy.
The freckled, and not yet stubbly face of just a boy.

Baseball, swimming, surrounded by teammates.
Running, goofing, clowning for the camera.
Wheelchair, tired, pale, so thin.
Smiling with Jeter
Loving the Yankees
Losing the fight
Losing the grip.

And he's gone.

And as a mother, how do you do this hard thing?
As a father, how do you stand there?
Brothers, sisters, Gammy, Pop-pop
Aunts and cousins and uncles and friends.

We must accept that which we don't understand.
We saw this tornado coming
We felt the earth begin to tremble
But we were not prepared for this.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Bad News/Good News Kind of Day

My neighbor called to tell me that her grandson has died.

He was 13 and was diagnosed with bone cancer last year. We were hopeful for so long and then about six weeks ago they sent him home saying there was nothing more to be done for him.

We've known the family for years, we used to go to the same church, bought our house from R's other grandmother, there have just been a lot of connections between the two families over the years. His grandparents are the best neighbors you could ever want, and we feel a kinship with their family.

For 16 months now I've been wearing a blue wristband to remind myself to pray for him. I guess now I'll wear it a bit longer to remind myself to pray for his family. As a mom I cannot imagine how his mother is handling the death of the sixth of her seven children. And then there are the other children. Each one has to figure out how to deal with this loss. Someone once said that the hardest thing for kids who lose a sibling isn't the death of their sister or brother. The hardest thing is dealing with the change in and effective loss of their parents.

So if you think of it, please pray for this family.
And hug your own children, delight in them, cherish their quirky ways and don't undervalue their good health. It can all pass by like a vapor.

Now for the good news, and it is the best kind of news!

A half hour after hearing that R had died I got an email from my old friend Mark. He announced that his wife gave birth to a healthy (and very beautiful) baby boy on Sunday! I am so excited for them because I knew they'd been trying but I haven't spoken to Mark in awhile and I didn't even know she was pregnant. So that's a great surprise!!
Both Mark and his wife are professional singers. And I mean they are "Wow, what an amazing voice, how do you do that?" kind of singers. Another friend said to me: "So how long til we get to hear this kid sing?" He's got great genes, singing or not.

So congratulations M and M, enjoy that little dumpling!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Beautiful, Horrific Day

I originally posted this two years ago. I am posting it again because it still sums up my feelings about this day in history. Hug your babies, tell people you love them, tell them again. Look intently into the eyes of those who mean the most to you. Listen to their laughter and keep it close to your heart. Look for the holy in the commonplace.

There are so many memories of that day. It was an extraordinarily beautiful fall day. We had no idea how it would end.

I read the paper while drinking my coffee. I thought that the biggest news of the day was that the Bishop had Alzheimer's Disease. My husband called me and said to turn on the tv because a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
It all happened in a blur after that. I just stood there, transfixed in front of the tv set. I called a couple of friends to make sure they watched too, but I just stood there, staring. It was so confusing at first, I remember wondering how on earth they would be able to reconnect the top and bottom of the first tower that was hit. I wondered how a pilot could go so off course as to run into a skyscraper. And then I heard one of the newscasters suggest that it was an act of terror.
How could that happen?
And the rest went by in a blur. I was standing there watching in live time when the second plane flew in and hit the other tower. I was standing there when they collapsed. It was amazing that the sky was so blue that day, the sun so bright and suddenly there was a blizzard-like dust falling from the sky. People ran away, crying, covered in debris.

I live in a bedroom community in NJ. My husband commutes to the city every day. We were all deeply, personally affected by the murders that took place on September 11, 2001. I am thankful that I didn't personally know anyone who died, but that doesn't even matter to me because I feel as though I knew many of them. Todd and Lisa Beamer attended the church that several of my friends attend. The husband of a woman who attended my MOPS group was killed. I went to pick my husband up at the commuter parking lot and there were just so many extra cars there for days and days. How many of those cars belonged to victims, I'll never know, but I can imagine.

I think that those of us who live in NY, NJ, PA, Southern CT, and the DC area share a sadly unique bond. For weeks afterwards (it felt like months) the daily newspapers listed the names of those whose remains had been found, or of those who were still unaccounted for. We turned on the tv and every newscast featured some poor, tortured soul holding up a wedding or graduation picture of their missing loved one. I particularly remember a man whose wife had died, leaving him with a 6 month old baby. He had a freezer full of her breast milk, so at least she could continue to nourish her baby after she had died.

And so I sobbed off and on all morning today. I listened to the reading of the names at the Ground Zero Memorial Service because I need to hear their names. Each one of those people meant the world to someone, they must be acknowledged.

This is still so fresh for many, many of us. But no matter how long I live, I dare not allow myself to forget. I watch the coverage and let myself grieve because I want to remember how personal and how all consuming the sadness was.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Art for Food

Here's a neat idea destined to warm the cockles of the most hardened heart. A group of artisans is auctioning off a whole slew of really beautiful creations and all proceeds go to feed the poor. Call it what you will: early Christmas shopping, benevolence, a break from this infernal campaign, however you frame it, it's a good thing. Just another way to add to the beauty.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And our word for today is...empathy.

I remember a Coke commercial from the 70's that featured people from all around the world holding hands in a circle, on a mountain top.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony.
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company.....
I'll like to buy the world a Coke--
It's the real thing."

Umm, not quite.

Empathy is the real thing.
I am starting to think that empathy is the root of all love.
Empathy allows us to really consider how it must feel to live in another person's skin.
It helps us to step outside of our self centeredness and try someone else's life on for size.

Imagine the wars that could've been avoided,
the arguments that could've been abated,
the insults that wouldn't have been hurled,
the feelings that wouldn't have been wounded,
the children whose trust wouldn't have been violated,

Maybe we should have Worldwide Empathy Day, where we all just take a moment before responding to the people around us, and think "How will this make her feel?" or "How would I feel if someone said/did this thing to me?"

Yup, it's the real thing.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Organizing Science...

If you're anything like me, you've kind of dropped the ball on teaching Science consistently. Don't get me wrong, I totally believe that kids can learn plenty about Science simply by helping out in the kitchen, the garden, even cleaning the bathroom. I don't think that there necessarily needs to be a lot of formal study of science in the early years. But this year I will have a Sixth Grader. And I'm feeling like it's time to tighten up our act a little in that regard.

So we're going to use Jeannie Fulbright's Botany book. I think that it'll be an interesting and fun study, and while all of the kids will be involved, I'll expect the most from Tall Boy.

Again, if you're anything like me you've bought other Science books/curricula and you've trotted along nicely until it was time to do an experiment. And then you go tearing through the house like MacGyver searching for a plastic funnel, a box of Epsom salts, and the lid to a quart sized container of yogurt so that you can build your own car battery. You finally give up because alas, the recycling went out yesterday and there isn't any more yogurt in the fridge and you tell the kids to just skip it. "Don't worry, we'll do it next week." Umm, yeah.

So it makes total sense to collect all of the supplies in advance. There are vendors on the internet (of course!) who will happily sell you all of the things you need to succeed at Science experiments, but if you're cheap frugal like me, you're thinking "I'm supposed to pay $50 for a bunch of stuff that I can easily collect on my own for about $12?" Besides, those kits don't contain every-single-thing that you'll need anyway.

So my solution (and the thing I've spent most of today working on) is to buy 13 extra large zippered storage bags. Each bag gets labeled by chapter, and I'll insert a list of items needed for that experiment. I've also collected many of the "ingredients" and I will put (nearly) everything needed in that bag. There are a few things (live flowers, a melon, water) that obviously won't go into the bag, but those items will be listed on the front of the bag so that the week before I can easily glance at the bag and know what I need to pick up from the store.

All of the bags will go into a milk crate, and voila!
Okay, that's my Big Idea For The Day!! :)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

6 Unspectacular Things About Me

Sarah has kindly all of her readers to the "6 Unspectacular Things Meme," the rules of which, slightly modified by Sarah, are:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Invite all readers of your blog to participate!

Okay, so here goes....

1. I think that celery tastes like soap. I will only eat it if it has been disguised in something like tuna salad.
2. My high school didn't have a football team...only soccer.
3. My mother and mother in law share the same first name.
4. I've lived in this house longer than I've lived anyplace in my life.
5. I know all the words to "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General."
6. I had pneumonia when I was two and can remember sleeping in a plastic bubble at the hospital.

Whew! I'm glad to be done with that.
Oh, and speaking of being done with things: I'm not done with my Lesson Plans. Not by a long shot. But I did have a really nice lunch date with my hubby, thanks to my good friend Michele. So I have two more days to soldier on. Let's see how it goes!