Author Archive for Andrea


Self-Pep Talk

The ho-hum of life continues humming along in Conniption Land.  We get up, prepare for our weekday exoduses (exodi?) that ferry us to our respective job/school/daycare situations.  We endure.  We eat during prescribed eating times.  We play during prescribed times.  We’re allowed to leave at prescribed times.  Once home, we do dinner and clean up, homework, baths, and bed.  I squeeze in a little knitting before falling asleep, and we lay down only for the alarm to kick on at the beginning of the same thing the next day.

I understand the kids’ lives being dictated in this manner because without a schedule, they become heathens of which there is no stopping their quest for personal gratification, but when did Mike and I submit ourselves to such interference from the powers that be?  It’s revolting.  It’s disheartening.  It’s gross.

It’s also January.

I recognize this time of year as my least favorite.  Perhaps it was my subconscious that set it up so that both my kids were born in January so that I would have something to keep me busy (their combined birthday party next weekend) and help me get through this most trying of months, i.e. their faces as they glut themselves on our family’s generosity in the form of toys upon the toys of Christmas.  Perhaps it was to add some happy into this dreariest of times.  There’s nothing better than fresh new baby when all else seems so bleak and sad.  Despite the limitations of birthday activities in the Month of Icicle, it’s something to which we all look forward.  So, there’s been a hub of activity in my land, from watching sale ads to see who is putting soda on the cheap for Super Bowl a wee early (another timing coup on my part, I do believe) to brainstorming decorations I can make from common everyday items.  Never underestimate the power of Styrofoam. 

We’ve been watching an inordinate amount of TV lately too.  How, without new episodes of Glee, you might ask?  Well, that does leave a pretty bleak wormhole to fill, but we’ve been trying.  We got Uverse a couple months ago and are fully in love with it.  Four shows can record at once. We can watch recorded shows on any TV.  We get Showtime without paying extra.  What’s not to love?  Mike is gorging himself on both the Military Channel and Military History Channel.  If they had a channel named Cojones Engorging Testosterone Fulfilling Big Guns and Machines with some Hero Thrown In, I’d never see him again, for the flicker of the screen would have sucked him in the first week of the new programming schedule.  I’m watching movies, some guilty pleasures (Confessions of a Shopaholic is a horrible movie…that I can’t stop watching. What can I say, I have a weakness for accented men that look good with some five o’clock shadow.)  I’m watching kids’ shows with Son and Daughter.  The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a new favorite, as well as Race to Witch Mountain, though I will go to my grave swearing it’s for the special effects rather than watching Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, bulge his arm muscles trying to open various and sundry portals to Earth’s catacombs.  Hubba Hubba.  The Biggest Loser continues to inspire me, infuriate me (why do they insist on bringing people who need help losing weight to the Ranch only to send them home immediately and make them compete to resume their place? That’s like telling a heart patient, here’s your medicine, but hey! you’re going to have to EARN IT, Sit Ubu, sit! Good dog), and move me to tears, but after last season’s contestants I don’t know that I can be as moved by anyone as I was by Abby Rike’s story, losing her whole family in one fell swoop.

I’ve been reading around blogland a bit here and there, watching weight and exercise dustups blow out of proportion.  I’ve been writing at a new site, My 15 Minutes to Better Fitness.  And I’ve been dreaming of warmer weather, busy summer plans, getting out more.  But we always do that.  Our summers are packed to the gills in a way that sometimes gets uncomfortable, both in terms of stamina and wallet strain. 

I feel like it’s all been done.  I don’t want to watch another year pass in the same manner, ho hum.  Taking to heart things that I’ve said lately about my physical lack of fitness and my commitment to doing better, being better, I’m choosing to make this year different than it was last year.  Everyone has their anchor catchphrase that gets them through.  My sister’s is, “It’s not an option to skip working out, to eat junk food.”  Mine has become, “What are my choices? Status quo or better eating/exercising? What will make a difference?” 

I don’t have any answers but I’m hoping that one foot in front of the other, one choice at a time, one decision to get up and moving will be the first and second and third in a chain of decisions that will have me looking back on this time as the beginning of the end of my sloth and the beginning of the beginning of my testing myself, challenging myself, working myself.  Mostly, I want to believe in myself again.  I will believe in myself again.  I want to run a 5K this year, maybe even a 10K.  I want to grow a greater portion of my own food.  I want to have enough to preserve through leaner months.  I want to feed myself and my family healthier.  I want to feel better about the adult I’ve become.  I want to mentally prepare myself for the idea of going back to school for a different degree, something that will shoot my career in a whole different direction.  I want to be someone I can be proud of, instead of a lump on a pickle watching episodes of Biggest Loser while stuffing nachos in my food-hole thinking about someday, maybe when the weather is warmer.

I’m doing it now.  Have been doing it for a few weeks, but I need to keep up the commitment.  January will suck less next year.



cross posted at My 15 Minutes to Better Fitness

So there’s a treadmill in Workplace’s facility that I consider ‘mine’.  It’s the one I always run on.  The one where I can see the faint reflection of myself in the window across the room – proof that yes, it really is me running.  I wish the machines faced the mirrors so that I could watch my form as I run, not that I know what I’m looking for, but it might help the more I learn.

With the New Year and all the Resolutioners taking advantage of Workplace’s free facilities, I am feeling protective of my treadmill.  Am I a jerk? Probably.  Am I glad to see these people back there trying to reach whatever goals they may have?  You betcha.  For the last two weeks of December, the workout room was a ghost town.  I was the only one back there most of the time, and if I fell off the treadmill or had a heart attack, there was no way I could call for help and be heard.

But not this week.  This week the place is jumping, the bass is pumping, the hearts and feet are thumping and … I’ll stop now because my mind was going somewhere it shouldn’t.  But anyway, it’s not quite crowded, but the solitude isn’t there.  I hate to admit it, but it was kinda nice, just me and my thoughts, my feet pounding, feeling no self-consciousness when an awesome song shuffled by on the iPod and I threw a goat or if I realized how much I jiggle.  It reminded me of that part in that movie What Women Want with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt when Gibson’s character wins the advertising account for Nike Women’s Division by making a commercial talking about the relationship with the road — “You don’t stand in front of a mirror before a run wondering what the road will think of your outfit. You don’t have to listen to its jokes and pretend they’re funny in order to run on it. It would not be easier to run if you dressed sexier. The road doesn’t notice if you’re not wearing lipstick.  Does not care how old you are.  You do not feel uncomfortable because you make more money than the road.  And you can call on the road whenever you feel like it, whether it’s been a day… or even a couple of  hours since your last date.  The only thing the road cares about is that you pay it a visit once in awhile.”  Such has been my relationship with the treadmill.  It doesn’t groan under my weight the way I would if 200+ pounds jumped on me.  It doesn’t mock me.  It doesn’t say hurtful things.  And so I have come to trust it to carry me through my workout.  I am a little hardpressed to share that with anyone.  I’ve developed a relationship with my treadmill.

However, these people back there now are people I know already, people with whom I work, people I mostly like.  They are people with whom I can connect over the fitness we are all trying to achieve.  They are another potential community I could get used to and come to respect and discuss goals with.  I don’t want to get too attached right now because of the nature of Resolutioners and their penchant for petering out after a few weeks.  But maybe some of them will stick.  Maybe one of them in the group would be someone who won’t care if I have lipstick on or if I look better than they do and I can let go of this unhealthy thing I have for my treadmill.

Workout Summary Dec 28-Jan 3:
ran 3.14 miles
calories burned 704
pace 15:83 minute mile.
pounds lost 2



Son eyes me warily but with a twinkle in his eye.  We’re in a standoff, him on one side of the table, me on the other.  Whenever I move, he moves in the opposite direction.  His 37 pounds is lightning fast and I’m gasping for breath, but I haven’t caught him yet.  I ignore the ragged sound and inch a little to my right.  He inches to his right, and we move in circles.  Daughter stands at the room entrance and screeches with glee.  She’s next.

There! His eyes shifted just a little in her direction.  He looks to be planning to dart out the door.  I wait, my fingers splayed and my stance ready for whichever direction he chooses.  He bolts.  Damn, he’s fast.  He squeezes past his sister and into the living room, me hot on his heels as I pursue.  He screeches a laugh of his own.  “You can’t get me,” he taunts.  He’s probably right, but for the fact that I can out think him, which won’t always be the case.  I lunge.  Grab.  Snag his shirt.  He’s off balance, and I take that second to regain my own balance and close the distance.  Yes!  I’ve got him! 

I pin him to the floor, hold his hand high above his head, exposing his tender underarm, and wiggle my finger in there until he’s crying with laughter, begging to be let up, promising the world just for a little tickle relief.  Daughter has climbed on my back, showing her brother that she will stand in solidarity with me, protecting him regardless of the cost to her physically.  I concede to his promises of early bedtime and eating his veggies after I feel I’ve gotten enough childhood belly laughter to recharge my own batteries, and I let him up.  Gently, I peel Daughter from my back so I don’t conk her on the head or set her down too far from a soft landing.  I lay back.  I breathe, in and out.  I’m sucking wind, cannot breathe, my throat on fire and I need some water pronto.  I groan, roll over, get to my knees, brace my hands on the couch and heave.

When did it get so hard to get up from the floor?  When did it get so hard to have a tickle fight with my kid?  When did I get so out of shape?  When did Orville Redenbacher move into my joints, making them pop pop pop popopopopopoPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOP when I stretch or exert?  Nasty squatter. 


“McDonald’s! I wanna go to McDonald’s for dinner!”  This from the backseat as we pass the Golden Arches while we’re out and about.  We look at the time.  We know that our errands will take us through the time we’d normally be cooking something, so a home prepared meal means not eating until after 8 pm.  We look at each other.  We don’t want McD’s again.  We’re sick of McD’s.  Daughter chimes in, “Frrrrriiiiiiiieeeeeessss.”

Great.  She has a total lexicon of about 10 words, and one of them is fries.  Might as well not worry about her saying ‘shit’ or ‘douche canoe’ too.  Perhaps we can get her a carton of cigarrettes for her birthday on Sunday and teach her how to flick a Bic while we’re at it.  After all, while fries aren’t necessarily carcinogenic, they are in no way a healthy thing to eat.  What are we teaching our kids?


I sit at my desk, feet propped up on my CPU.  I stare blankly at the report I’m looking at.  The same report I’ve done every month for 8 years and three months.  That’s 12 times a year, 8 years, 96 times, plus 3 months, 99 times I’ve done the same report.  I’m the only one in my department who can do the report with any consistency.  It is the reason I have a job, and also the reason I was given a good raise a couple years ago, moreso than average anyway.  But god, if the procedure hasn’t become boring.  What’s so fulfilling about telling a man who inherited millions and a company and didn’t spend one hour in college how much richer he’s gotten that month when, after nearly 10 years, I’m still trying to pay college off?  I curse my mother for not marrying a wealthy business owner.  Then I think of my father, a lawyer and a good man, oxymoron like Captain Jack Sparrow .  He used to take all kinds of payments, knowing his clients couldn’t always afford cash money.  He’s received cookware, a boat, a car, stocks, and all manner of bartered items.  He’s gone to visit clients in the hospital because in their divorce, they’ve alienated everyone they know and he’s the only friendly face they have left.  He’s waived fees for those who truly can’t pay.  He loans his personal vehicles to clients who have no other means to travel when their only living relatives are out of state.  I don’t know that I would trade my dad for a bank account.  But I realize as I sit counting my beans/inventory/standards and variances that I am just a cog in a wealthy man’s grandfather clock, and not a very important one at that.  Except for this report, which honestly, doesn’t move me.  I open the file, save as a new month and begin the report again for the hundredth time.  And daydream of one day finding a purpose to my career beyond making the rich get richer.


My alarm blares.  I groan and squint.  5:00 am.  I roll over and sleep for nine more minutes.  It blares again.  Snooze.  Snooze.  Snooze.  Finally, Mike nudges me about getting up since he doesn’t have to get up until 7, when I’m herding the kids out the door.  He used to snooze for an hour (using the same alarm I do, so I’d be the one hitting his snooze.  For years this went on.  I see nothing wrong with a little payback now that he gets to sleep a little later before anyone judges harshly.)  Finally, at 6 I drag my butt out of bed.  My limbs feel utterly incapable of propelling me through the next hour, let alone the day.  It’s only when the spray from the shower hits my face that I truly begin to wake.  Why am I so tired all the time?  I scrutinize myself cruelly in the mirror.  Never did lose that baby weight, but who’m I kidding?  I was this weight before I had my kids.


I sit on the floor, my face puffy and swollen, my nose completely clogged.  I cannot talk without a nasally tone, making my words sound more pathetic to my ears.  Mike sits on the bed, his arms crossed, his body half turned away from me.  Look at him, I think.  He couldn’t be more obvious about not wanting to be near me now.  We’ve spat words at each other with such venom and anger that someting inside me broke, releasing a flood of tears.  This isn’t the life I thought I’d have.  This isn’t what I want for myself, and by extension, my family.  His words, “You’re mad all the time,” echo in my head.  I’m miserable.  I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.  I hate my job.  I have a coworker that hates my guts and the feeling is mutual.  But The Crazy sits next to me and the tension wraps itself around me like a slanket/snuggie, making me grumble at the stupidity of the entire situation and I would like to stand up and shout that I’m not this person I’m accused of being.  But much like the stupidity of the slanket, it’s viral and spreading, and I can only ride it out and choose to ignore it while I continue on with my day.  By the time I get home, I’m such a miserable wreck that I snap at my kids.  I snap at my husband.  I make everyone feel as miserable as I am.  I am dragging everything down.  I can’t keep up with my kids when I do find the time/energy to play with them.  I sniffed at my clogged nose, pleaded with Mike not to pack a bag and leave for a few days to let things cool down.  I opened my chest, ripped out my heart, and handed it to him again.  I promised that with understanding of my emotions and what they were doing to me and those around me can come change.  I promised him I would not live a miserable life.  He stayed.

All of this began in October with a crashing realization that this horribleness was avoidable.  There were some financial implications for us that brought everything to a head, ripped the scabs we’d built up over and over off and forced us to take a true look at ourselves, our lives together, and our future.  Mine felt so bleak and awful that I well and truly, for the first time ever, felt hatred for myself and what I’ve let myself become.  They say everyone has a rock bottom.  I hit mine.

With this opening up of long mistreated wounds, I started takin a deeper look at things.  One of the biggest reasons I’m so off the charts miserable all the time is my job.  I looked into going back to school.  I looked at what the local area colleges have to offer and what I might be interested in pursuing.  As I realized that I’d be going back into serious debt and wouldn’t emerge with a new degree for many years, it occurred to me that at this point in our  financial lives, we cannot afford for me to return to school.  I know there are programs, grants, aid that we could get, but frankly, admitting I want to change careers is hard enough, and I don’t want to rush into a new career without truly wanting to study and love it.  I have more soul searching to do to find what I wanna be when I grow up.

The next big thing making me miserable is my health.  If I can improve my health, perhaps my job and career choice won’t seem like such a death sentence to me.  Perhaps if other aspects of my life are improved, I will be able to appreciate the stability of my job and not let the drudgery bog me down.  After all, I bet insurance agents, or house painters, or assembly line workers aren’t all passionate about what they do 100% of the time.  And yet there is pride to be had there too. 

So that’s what’s on my plate.  I’ve already written about eating in a more environmentally sustainable manner.  What I’ve only briefly touched on is that I’ve started running.  On a treadmill.  No one’s chasing me.  No one’s holding’ a gun to my head and saying if I don’t run this mile and a half they’ll filet my dog.  I’m voluntarily getting off my ass and getting some exercise.  It’s slow going.  I think I might have the start of shin splints.  Maybe I have the wrong shoes.  I’ve found some kickass running music (but hey, I’ll take any suggestions anyone might have)!  I’m learning.  I’m actually thinking of running a 5K.  I wanted to last year but slacked off after a couple weeks on the treadmill.  I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight.  In the past, I’ve become a slave to the scale and so this time, I’m not letting anythin deter me.  Weirdly, I’m liking running enough that the point of it (to lose weight) has changed some, so that I can get fit, and accomplish something.  Tell my brain to stfu when it scoffs and says I can’t run that much.  Well, 2010 is coming.  And instead of resolutions which I’ve failed at many many times, I’m just making choices.  What would I have done before?  Is that going to help me change my health?  Is that going to help me change my job?  Is that going to help me change my outlook?

This time, I’m choosing to be better.  Here’s to a new year.


Not So Inert Afterall

Emily Gomol was kind enough to invite me to be a contributing writer over at My 15 Minutes to Fitness.  My first post is up over there if you’re so inclined.  Please to be inclined.  I’m nervous.  But I didn’t want to belabor my knitting blog with life change stuff but I will always link to my posts over there for those who are interested.  I’m still around, still knitting, just not good at getting pictures posted (or even taken) and don’t have much to say except miles of garter stitch in the form of a log cabin blanket and a baby blanket log cabin style.  Yeah, I’m sparing you.  You’re welcome.


It Starts At Home

What do you eat?  Do you eat food?  Well, most of you would scoff at that question.  Who doesn’t eat food?  But it’s a legitimate question, once I clarify what I think of as food.

Food doesn’t contain more than 5 ingredients that most people can’t pronounce immediately.  Sure, we’re smart enough to work out a 17-syllable chemical name after some phonetic reading, or indoctrination in the food ingredient reading cult of Nutritionists.  But do you know what Xanthan gum really is?  (I picked that one because I could spell it, since it’s only 2 syllables.)  I sure don’t.

Food doesn’t have a shelf life of several months without freezing or canning.

The word ‘enriched’ doesn’t enter into food.  It doesn’t have to be chemically altered to put nutrients back into it.

So.  Do you eat food? I know that for most of my life, I haven’t.  I love me a Totino’s Party Pizza as a movie night munch.  I could scarf a whole loaf of fluffy, pillowy white bread with nothing on it.  Mmmmm.  Chips? I can usually take them or leave them.  I take them to the couch, and then leave the empty bag in the trash can when I’m done with them.  Trust me I know my way around the junk food circuit, which is responsible for my ample size.  Don’t even let me start on the fast food chains.  I saw Super Size Me.  If you haven’t, I would suggest it before your next drive thru detour.

But in the last several weeks of trying to learn how to lose the weight, I’ve discovered that what I thought was food really isn’t.  Real food comes from nature, not from a factory.  Real food contains so many antioxidants and phytochemicals that are naturally occurring that food scientists haven’t even begun to isolate all the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. 

I bought some oat flour this morning where the ingredients list consists of one thing: ground whole oats.

Hey!  I can read that the first time through!

I also bought some yeast.  Not the rapid rise stuff either.  The stuff that takes some time.  I will give making a loaf of bread a shot.  Why is this?  Why have I been on the rampage for information on farmers markets, local food options, and humane treatment of livestock for the meat I buy?  Why am I scouring websites looking for ways to make my own bread, my own cheese, and learn how to can and preserve?

Well, to start with, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  In it, she endeavored to go a year eating as locally as possible, growing much of her own food herself, and finding it locally for what she couldn’t produce on her own.  If there was no viable option for local food, she either did without, or as in the case of wheat flour, she found as close a supplier as possible.  She managed to feed her family of four for about fifty cents per person per meal.

I was under the misperception that eating free-range, hormone and antibiotic free meats and home grown or organic vegetables and fruits was expensive.  You mean it’s not?

I’m learning that the expense of this kind of food is not so much the money handed over to the cashier at the check-out line but the time and effort it takes to find and purchase local foods or produce it yourself.  Plants produce several food units per plant depending on what you choose to grow.  For instance, we planted three tomato plants last season, and for a couple weeks, we had more tomatoes than we could possibly eat before they rotted.  I didn’t know how to can then, so I had no way of preserving them for later use, and I gifted a lot of them to neighbors and family.  Three plants were less than $10 from the nursery in April and we got so many tomatoes out of them in July and August that the equivalent at the grocery store would have likely topped $50 or more.  Since Mike isn’t big on eating tomatoes by themselves or on his sandwiches or salads, I had to get creative with recipes so they didn’t go to waste.  I ate a lot of tomatoes myself.  And believe it or not, it didn’t kill me to slice one of those beauties up and eat it with some salt and pepper instead of getting a bowl of ice cream or some chips for a snack.

So the idea of trying to lose some weight has led to a desire to eat healthier.  In the past, I would have reached for the nearest, most popular fad diet book and tried to eat healthier that way.  But the buzz of late has become not low-fat/low-carb/glycemic index fad dieting, but getting back to nature.  Perhaps American waistlines have increased so much in the last thirty years because we’ve gotten so far away from nature.  The benefits of eating more naturally, more locally become forehead-slapping obvious once they’re pointed out.  Eating locally means you find out what has been done to the food by the grower.  You know if it was chemically treated for pests.  You know if the cattle were fed grains or grass.  You know if the chickens received hormones in their feed.  You know that it didn’t take thousands of gallons of diesel to reach you.  You know that food you grow in your garden has certain nutrients based on soil you tilled and worked yourself. 

And might I remind you, 50¢ a person is less than the boxed stuff on the shelves that has a use by date starting in 2010.

The human body works in a certain way.  Evolutionarily speaking, we’d eventually adapt to bleached and enriched flour if we keep eating it.  Growth hormones fed to cows that transfer into milk will eventually become a non-issue since our bodies would change to handle it.  But that could take hundreds if not thousands of years.  I won’t be around then.  And frankly, I don’t like the idea of my body being the guinea pig of Big Food industry to find out what is healthy and what is not and to continue that way of life until my great great great great great great great grandchildren can metabolize highly processed food in a way that won’t mean heart disease and diabetes for them.

Wow, there’s so much more to this healthy thing than I thought.  I almost don’t know where to start.  I do know that the idea that I eat corn based products from boxed foods and that corn also goes into the packaging of those boxed foods gives me pause.  Why don’t I just eat the cardboard, for all the nutrition involved in those powdered seasoning packets.

I’ve been running on the treadmill at work lately.   That’s where I’ve started.  Learning to eat healthier includes more fruits and vegetables.  Grilling, baking, roasting, and less deep frying, less breaded things, smaller portions.  I find myself less snack hungry when I eat more fruits and veggies with my meals.  And the thing is, I’m actually ENJOYING learning how to do this.  And you know what?  It feels right.  It doesn’t feel like a fad.  It feels like I’ve been trapped inside the ironclad idea that food science held all the answers.  But you know what?  We’re fatter than we’ve ever been and the thing difference in the last thirty years is the industrialization of our food and our penchant for sitting around doing nothing.  I’m going to break that mold.  My ass-dent in the couch is going to get shallower, and hopefully the ass that made the dent will get smaller.    

I don’t want to eat the box.  Not anymore.  But I have no idea what I’m doing, so this is an experiment of sorts.  If anyone has any suggestions, advice, comments, information on local (St. Louis area and Metro East) farmers/markets/locavore groups, I’m all ears.  I’m going to be trying new things, like gardening, growing my own food, composting, finding more local meat and dairy producers, reducing the amount while increasing the quality of meat I eat (namely grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free­), new recipes, new ways to preserve foods so I can capture them at their peak ripeness and enjoy them throughout the year without having to rely on thousands of miles of transportation costs, both monetary and environmental, to bring me and my family those foods in the off season.  It’s gonna be a little crazy.  I’m hoping I will learn a lot.  I have no plan, other than to try to get as much off the interstate food industry grid as I can.  But I don’t want my kids growing up thinking a nutritious meal has to be made in a lab.  Let’s see if I can get the nature back into a natural diet in my house.  It starts at home.


The Goodbye We Never Wanted

Son’s button up white shirt is too small, but if I cover it with a sweater vest, we might get away with it.  He is okay with the dressy clothes because it gives him a chance to wear the clip on tie he got for his Aunt’s wedding.  He sometimes puts the tie on his t-shirts, until I make him take it off so we don’t lose it.  He pretends to be the President giving a speech in his regal attire, the blue-green geometric pattern over the top of his My First Hard Rock Café t-shirt from San Antonio when his daddy was on a work trip.  But the sweater makes him mad.  “Don’t cover up my tie!” he shouts at me.  I try to assure him that we can still see his tie and it looks nice, but he pouts and sulks and declares, “Fine! I’m not going!”  I have no patience.  I grab his chin and force him to look at me.

“You are going. You are going to be respectful.  You are going to remember not to run or yell or act happy.  You will behave.  And you will do what you’re told.  You don’t want to wear this sweater.  I don’t want to wear these shoes.  And I’m sure that Nate’s* mom and dad don’t want to bury their son.  But we have to.”

Son’s face crumples.  He is scared and upset, and not over a sweater, but they don’t teach the vocabulary of death and loss and funerals in Kindergarten.  There, it’s all play grounds, swings, hats, and balls.  Pink and blue and green.  Not black.  Not death.  Not bury.

I sit next to his covered face and try to pull him to me, but he resists.  I say as carefully as I can, “This is important.  We’re going to say goodbye, and it’s important we do so.  Some things hurt.  Some things are awful.  A sweater covering your tie isn’t one of them.  Not right now.  Think of Daddy.  This is his second funeral this weekend.  Yesterday, he went to one for a baby that didn’t even get the chance to live outside her mommy’s body.  That’s hard on Daddy.  So for his sake, and for mine, please, be a good boy.  You’re a big boy, and you can do this.”

He cries for a bit and then goes quietly to his room where he lays down and falls asleep.  A nap might do him good, so I leave him to sleep while I finish getting myself ready and start thinking about Daughter’s outfit.  She has one dress with somber colors.  Everything else is cheery bright pink and purple and blue.  Stores aren’t in the habit of carrying a lot of funeral clothes for toddlers and babies.  A gray and black striped t-shirt dress with black leggings will have to do.  Her cuteness in the dress is like an antidote to the weight of the task we go to do.  A careful ponytail in her hair will complete her look, and I make sure not to make it too jaunty.  I don’t know why I think that her jaunty ponytail of normal days might offend someone, but I still go out of my way to make sure all the bases are covered, all the feelings are considered.

Entering the funeral home, there is a heartbreaking mix of young and old.  Some teenage girls stand huddled together crying.  Nate’s classmates.  They are beside themselves with grief, one in particular catching my eye.  She’s miserable.  I wonder briefly if she was his girlfriend.  Is his girlfriend, I remind myself.  She’s still alive.  I’m glad to see her ring of friends with her, all of them teary and sad, but touching her back, holding her hand.  She breaks away from them to give Nate’s mother a long, sobbing hug.  It is a touching moment, one I hope never to see again.

We find our own family, stand around for a few minutes, comment on the surroundings.  I make sure to sign the guestbook.  Of course, Son has to use the bathroom as soon as we get there.  I’m forced to take the tour of the funeral home in search of a bathroom when I would have preferred to scope out the place quietly, slowly.  This ocean of somber faces hurts in too large of a dose, so I look at my feet.  We find the bathroom and Son is, as usual, too loud and too interested in playing in the water as he washes his hands.  I spy a box of Kleenex and swipe a bunch.  I’ll need them.  I steel myself to usher Son back through the throng, the quietest crowd I’ve ever walked through excepting church.  As we return to the sides of Mike and his family, I look him in the eye with a question on my face.  He ignores me.  He follows his brother in law to a room with more chairs, leaving our kids with their grandparents.  He’s talking about winterizing our camper.  I tell him we should go talk to Nate’s parents.  He looks at me in despair, “I don’t think I can.”  His voice is flat, quiet, scary.  I nod. “You can.  Talk to them.  So they know we’re here for them.  We’ll talk to them together.”  I take his arm and lead him to the room where Nate is laid out.  We see Nate’s aunt, his mom’s sister, a friend who was indispensable in helping us set up the benefit we threw for Mike’s sister last year before her brain surgery.  Mike heads to her, hugs her, and surreptitiously looks around.  He sees Nate’s mom talking to a large group.  She hasn’t seen us yet, but that’s okay.  I think we need a minute to shore up our reserves.

“How are they?” Mike asks the aunt.  She nods.  “She’s keeping busy and hanging in there.  His little sister doesn’t understand.  But he’s not doing as well,” she inclines her head to Nate’s dad.  We see him with some family, nodding solemnly.  An air of despair clouds around him, and his eyes have a far away glassy look.  They are ringed red, and who could blame him?  He’s lost his first born to an illness they spent 13 years fighting.  They’ve become used to hope and optimism because they’d beaten the odds before.  This grief is a new jacket he must don, and he’s unsure of how to wear it.  So his shoulders slump under its weight.  We hope for him that he will grow strong beneath it, so that maybe it won’t feel like a straight jacket and will instead seem less oppressive as time goes on.  Knowing how I would be for my own kids I know that as parents, they will always grieve.  What was lost, what will never be, what could have been. 

Nate’s mom sees us and breaks away to come say hello.  I hug her tight, fighting tears and saying the forever inadequate words of sorrow.  But I try to pull it together.  It is her son in the casket, not mine.  I shouldn’t hug her for my own comfort but to offer it to her should she need it.  She lets go, hugs Mike, whose jaw works as he tries to control himself and say the things he wants to say.  We talk quietly for a bit, and I don’t know how she’s capable of her level of poise.  She is in the role of comforter at this point, accepting sorrow graciously and keeping herself in check.  I don’t know if this is the result of having had years of the word ‘terminal’ hanging over their heads or if she’s just this strong.  Regardless, I let her know our intentions to make them dinner some night in the future, when all the casseroles and pies have dried up and been eaten, when the well wishes have slowed in frequency, and the silence in their home starts to reveal the hole left in Nate’s wake.  We will be there, with pork chops and mushroom wine cream sauce.  We will bring over bread, and steamed broccoli.  Some homemade mashed potatoes.  The good kind, with the lard in them.  We will not skimp for the instant no matter how well we like the brand we found.  They are our friends, and worth the effort.  She thanks us, chuckles a little that she hasn’t eaten yet and we’re making her hungry, all this talk of food.  The conversation begins to lag.  We ask her to convey our condolences to her husband, who is still talking to family.  We don’t wish to intrude. 

“Deep breath,” I say as we both turn to look, finally, at the casket, the large elephant in the room.  He nods, clenches his jaw, and grabs my hand.  I assure him that he can do this.  We walk over, stopping about three feet away.  This is the closest Mike can come to the mortality that stole over the bright and vigorous boy who we knew as Nate.  Mike grips my hand harder.  We stand in silence.  Nate is wearing a Yankees cap, and his baby blanket is draped over the lower half of his body.  A teddy bear and picture are propped up in the corner, the things he wanted with him.  Incongrous, child things, man things, in between things.  He’s in a full sized casket, but he’s not a full sized man.  He was robbed of that opportunity when he was three, diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that he danced with his entire life.  We note his lack of a tie.  Of course no 13 year old wants to wear a tie.  The smiling face of the large picture next to him will be forever frozen in wry, thirteen year old humor.  

We cannot bring ourselves to stand there long, each in our own way saying goodbye, turning to the easel containing pictures of his life, and then we leave the room, incapable of withstanding the weight bearing on us any longer.  Standing next to our family, I ask Son if he wants to go say goodbye.  He nods quietly.  He once played with Nate, running around and having a good time, not realizing Nate was sick.  He didn’t look sick.  Mike looks at me with bleak eyes and I assure him that I will take Son in myself.  He doesn’t have to go with us.  So I do.  I bring Son to his friend, pick him up so he can see, so he can say his own goodbye.  And then I show him the pictures, turn one more time and we whisper together goodbye.  Son doesn’t cry, but he looks like he’s seen a ghost. 

Soon, we leave, and in the car on the way home, we cry.  It’s not fucking fair.

*Nate’s name has been changed, but his memory has left its indelible mark.

Google Giggles

Just messing around yesterday, I typed some generic beginnings of questions into Google to see what the auto suggestions would be.  Here is my favorite one.

I’m pretty sure your eye is twitching because you’re dumb enough to Google symptoms, and you’ve read all the horrifc things that are possibly wrong with you.

Asparagus makes urine smell because there’s something funny going on in your digestive tract. It’s supposed to turn your urine greenish, not make it smell.  There’s something wrong with you.  I’m thinking brain tumor.  Sorry.  But don’t google that.  You’ll cry.

Love feels like a battlefield because you’re with the wrong guys.  The right one makes love feel like a warm house in the deep of winter, a fluffy puppy so happy to see you that he’s wagging hard enough to shake his entire body, a hot mess of eye poppingly good sex that could furrow even a botoxed brow, and the best book you’ve ever read, all rolled into one.  And it cures eye twitching.

What does your vag smell like?  If it’s pretty floral scents, I’m pretty sure it’s because you’ve gotten yourself some good soap.  However, I’m assuming you wouldn’t google that if it wasn’t a problem.  Perhaps you ate some asparagus and didn’t use enough toilet paper to clean up?  But I predict that’s the least of your problems.  Namely, I hope you find a vegetarian boyfriend who loves asparagus.  Good luck to you.

Dogs eat poop.  It’s a fact of life.  There is no why.

Not all poop floats.  But perhaps it’s fluffier than the stuff that sinks.  Just a guess.  Some things are better left un-googled.

If you can answer the question of hair turning gray and then can find a cure, I’d be your betch for life.  Seriously, I’ll handknit all your socks, draw your baths with floating rose petals on the the water and candles.  I’ll make you from-scratch dinners for life. 

I had to Google the zebra stripe thing myself, and found the answer duh worthy: for camouflage.  Google doesn’t know everything, apparently.

Ice floats so that the liquid passing through your lips has just left the ice and is cold.  It’s so cocktails are tastier.  Go have one.  It’ll help.

Snape kills Dumbledore?  Fuck you, Google, for spoiling that for me.  Asshole.

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