December 28, 2009

Day 7 with 20? to go

There are a few classic blunders, cliches that are given to comfort the grieving. If someone has died, these include: "They're in a better place", "At least the suffering is over". The reality is, there is nothing that can be said to make it better. All one can say is, "I'm sorry for your loss" and then remain present for any stories the griever might want to tell.

For a miscarriage the classic blunders include: "There must have been something wrong with this one, the next one will be (better/healthy/etc)", "Next time, make sure you (keep your feet up/rest/don't walk too much/take vitamins/etc)", "At least you know you can get pregnant!"

The reality is that I've been looking on the bright side myself, but it's one thing if I'm giving myself a pep talk and another if someone else tries to do it. Again, a loss is a loss and nothing can be said to make that go away. You don't say to a widow, "At least you know you can deal with marriage, I'm sure the next one will be better!" Granted, 7 weeks of knowing a possibility is definitely NOT on the same scale as knowing a person for years, but I think you get the point.

Mom K made the classic blunders within the first 20 minutes of her visit. The next morning she started to give me advice about what to do the next time (see list above). I interrupted the litany and said, "Mom, I did all that". She tried to launch back into the list (the Korean method being to repeat until lecture subject yields), but I interrupted again (playing my 'white girl' rude card), saying even more firmly, "Mom! I did each one of those things. It didn't matter." Fortunately, I think that got it out of her system and she hasn't brought any of it up since.

Actually, the visit has gone very well. She's thoughtful, quiet, courteous, and does the dishes! Of course, she used the liquid dish soap in the dishwasher, but we brought our wet/dry vac with us from Baltimore, so I was able to clean up the soapy water that spouted all over the kitchen. Now she's convinced I'm just like Dad K: organized and mechanically inclined.

We took her out for a fancy dinner on their wedding anniversary. When I asked for stories about what she misses about Dad K, I got the weirdest repetition, she launched into this and repeated it word for word 5x in a row, "I was such a bad wife. I did so many things wrong. I told God if He gives me a next life, marry to Daddy, I will do it. I want to do everything right. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..." I tried a bunch of things to derail the perseveration: "Mom, there IS forgiveness for you. That's the whole reason Jesus died for you, so you don't have to carry guilt like this". She nodded, "I know. I feel so bad. I was such a bad wife..."

Then I tried to meet her where she was at, "Mom, I hear what you are saying. I know Dad was a very good man underneath everything, but he was also like a 7-year old boy. It felt like no matter how many gifts you give him for Christmas, he always wanted more. There was a need in him that couldn't be filled by one person. I don't know what you do when that happens, but when I run into that with someone, I put up walls to protect myself. I don't want to give and give and give until there's nothing left."

She agreed, "You right. That's why I feel so bad. I know Daddy mentally young, I try to make him older all the time. Next time, I will just love him. I was such a bad wife..."

After a while, I was able to ask her questions to get her talking more about specifics or actual memories rather than just repeating the litany. Jrex told me a while ago that his mom carries a pathological level of guilt. I believed him, but it made me so sad to see it in action.

It looks like she might be with us through most of January. She has to go back to NYC for a ceremony in early February and then she wants to stay out east through Lent and Easter.

December 23, 2009

I feel so loved

Reason 1: Jrex went to the airport to pick up his Mom without me.
He told her what was happening in a "Good news/Bad news" way. She was really excited that we'd conceived without any medical help. (Jrex's sister had to do multiple invitros and had a couple miscarriages.) Within the first 20 minutes after she arrived at our place she'd given me a couple pep talks and a story of a Korean Christian guy who waited through 15 years of marriage before he had his son.

Reason 2: One friend loaned me her car while she's gone for a week.

Reason 3: Another friend gave me a key to her apartment. I'm going to pretend to have to work tomorrow and have a little alone time. Plus, I've told Mom K I have to water my friend's plants, so every couple days I have a reason to go grab some time alone.

Reason 4: Many emails and phone calls from friends and family.

Reason 5: I thought we were going to have to spend Christmas Eve with Jrex's extended family up in San Francisco. His cousin owns a restaurant and we all gather there. Usually everything is in Korean, so the food is good, but it's usually tedious. NOT how I wanted to spend Christmas Eve. Found out this morning that we get to go up there next week instead. I'm actually looking forward to going to church. I don't think Mom K has gone to church since staying with Jrex's sister, so she's looking forward to it as well.

Tonight is Mom K's anniversary. She wants to go out to dinner. I found a good sympathy card and I'll write in it my fond memories of Dad K. If we have time, Jrex can add a couple as well. I hope that Mom K feels loved during her time here.

December 21, 2009

No idea how to write about this

So...to follow up on the previous post.

When I wrote that last Tuesday, I was 7 weeks pregnant and due to have my first ultrasound on Wednesday. A week and a half before that, I spotted lightly. The doctor's office had me get my blood levels checked. There's a hormone that indicates the progression of a pregnancy, hCG (no idea what that stands for!). Anyway, it's supposed to double every 48 hours. My levels were low and weren't doubling. Blood tests Monday the 7th, Wednesday and Saturday. By Monday the 14th I was wrestling with faith/hope vs. brace for the worst. My normal reaction is to brace and I was trying to choose hope instead. Thus the blog post.

The problem was that as of Thursday the 10th, I woke up feeling completely normal. Before that I was fatigued, peeing constantly, and getting mildly nauseous. I knew that feeling normal and energetic was probably a bad sign.

Jrex came with me for the ultrasound. The doctor found the embryo with no problem. It was in the right place and all the right pieces were present (I took her word for it, since all we could see on screen was a circle that had a slightly wider 'diamond' on one side). The doctor pointed out the diamond and said that's the baby. It was 3 mm long (it should have been 5-6 mm). And not fluttering; which meant no heartbeat. My doctor was great. She'd had two miscarriages at the age of 38 (after 5 years of trying) and then had three children. The fact that everything was in the right place and that we'd gotten pregnant without any need for intervention means there's great hope that the next pregnancy will be fine. We scheduled a follow up ultrasound for the next Wednesday (the 23rd) and went home to wait. Somehow, once I knew there wasn't much hope, I felt much calmer. Wrestling with whether or not to live in hope had been much harder than accepting this pregnancy wasn't going to result in meeting a kid.

By Friday I told Jrex I would be totally shocked if we went back and had a heartbeat since I felt zero percent pregnant. When I was still in hope-land, I told Jrex that I didn't want a D&C. After I started feeling normal and after the flutter-free ultrasound, that changed. I could tell nothing was happening inside me anymore and I was fine with the idea of a D&C just to get it over with.

Well, it's not relevant.

Yesterday afternoon I miscarried. I thought I'd be sobbing in the bathroom, freaking out at what was happening to my body. Instead I was shocked by what a relief it was. After two weeks of waiting, it was good to be getting it 'over with'. I was surprisingly grateful that it started before Mom K arrives (tonight!). I didn't want to deal with her fussing and praying over me to heal the baby or whatever. Now we don't need to deal with that option.

I think the other reason I was able to deal was church on Sunday morning. No one said or did anything specific, but during the worship a bunch of things happened. I basically made a decision that I wasn't going to allow this circumstance to separate me from His love. Sure, I'll wrestle with my frustration and anger that He allowed this, but I'm choosing to NOT plant the seeds that will grow into bitterness and separation. When I asked Him if He had anything to show/tell me, I saw a picture of a dark mine with gemstones. The sense was that treasures are found in darkness and gemstones are mined from deep places. That if I press into Him instead of withdrawing, He has good things, even in this.

Jrex is hanging in there. He's been really supportive. I've made room for any sadness he might be feeling, but he admitted that even though he was excited, it all felt somewhat theoretical. The best part is that he and I share the same morbid sense of humor, so he's not at all thrown when I crack jokes in the middle of all this.

The other thing that has really helped is the people who've been on this journey with me. I figured I'd only tell a person if I could also turn to them for comfort if it didn't work out. That's what's happened. After the ultrasound, I just texted/emailed the bad news. While I was in limbo last week, I didn't want to talk or answer questions or analyze how I was feeling. Now that the end of this particular story is known, it's easier to think about talking.

December 15, 2009

Hope and the difficulties it causes

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

One of the refrains of my childhood. Repeated over and over by a mother who loved nothing better than worshiping God. Who was a full-time minister. Who told me that the story of her life was not the story of the abuse she’d survived, but the ways the Lord had redeemed her life and used every one of her hurts to heal others.

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

My husband was one of my spiritual heroes during college. A senior to my first-year status, he led a mind-exploding Bible study that first year of college. After moving on to do his MD/PhD, he’d come back for retreats with our church and we’d quickly dive into the deep end of theology and philosophy. Dive into the heart of Who this God is that we worship.

Over the years, he’s been through disappointment after disappointment. Unanswered prayers. Frustrated hopes. He’s gone out on the faith limb only to have it break off and leave him bruised on the ground.

“I can’t trust the Lord to do me good.”

I find that I don’t lean on anyone, really. I share things with my friends. I tell people what’s going on, but I don’t cry with anyone (only with Jrex after Mom died and I couldn’t hide the tears). I tell Jrex the details of my day, my silly/trivial thoughts, sometimes I try to tell him what’s going on with me spiritually, but I don’t share the deepest things. The places that feel fresh, or tender, or tentative? I wait to process them alone. When I feel needy, I’m more likely to curl up with a novel, or write in my prayer journal than I am to call someone. Angry emotions I can share with friends, just not sad/needy emotions.

I’ve realized more and more lately that I’m afraid to really trust or hope. I pray for changes or for the future. I trust that God does love me, but my Mom’s refrain echoes in the background. I DO trust that the Lord will bless me and that he’s there, but when it really comes down to it, I refuse to lean on Him far enough to risk the branch breaking. One foot on the branch, one hand reaching out, yet one hand on the trunk, one foot close to safety. I am terrified to risk all by praying all, hoping all, believing all. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to have to wrestle with doubt or despair the way my mother and husband have.

I’m trying to trust that the Lord has good in store, no matter what the present circumstances might look like, but it’s hard. The sad truth is that I don’t think I knew this was in me this deeply. As I’m trying to rest in the Lord and explore our relationship more deeply, I keep hitting these walls.

Numbness is easier than hope. Yet I know I’m not called to live numb. In my mind though, hope equals pain. I know it’s wrong, yet I’ve rarely really had it modeled differently. My father and I tend to be optimists, yet I don’t know how deeply either of us delve into our deeper emotions on a regular basis. I can easily hope to do well at work, to excel in tasks, to find good friends. There are other more hidden, less-visited places in my soul where I just can’t risk hope because disappointment might crush me.

December 11, 2009

Because it's true

We told our families we were skipping Christmas presents this year. Yeah, we got some for the nieces and nephew, but figured there's enough stuff in our lives, we don't need to add to the piles.

I'm kinda wishing we could take it back! Someone showed me a catalog today from ThinkGeek.com. I know it's still tchotchke, but it's funny and clever.

Can't you see me wearing this shirt while standing next to Jrex?

And, for the chemist in the family (hint: NOT me), wouldn't it be comforting to be surrounded by one of your favorite things?



This one isn't junk at all. It's a magnetic LED tool that helps you pick up the stuff you dropped down the drain, or wherever.


This clock might even remind me of some of the rudiments of math. Or just make me later than usual.


I guess I can pretend that Jrex is the geek in the family, but I'm not that far behind! He just KNOWS more of the 'usual' geek things (math, computers, coding). At our supper club over the weekend, the guys started swapping 'remember when' computer stuff like "Remember using punch cards for 'memory'?". I don't go that far back, but I do remember programming new game levels for our Lode Runner game on our Apple IIe.

All I can say is, whenever we have a house again? Be afraid, be very afraid.

Or, as they say at Think Geek:

"Come to the dark side;
we have cookies.
—V"

December 8, 2009

There's no There Here

Life continues to meander along. I don't have any nice, tidy blog stories. No ongoing drama to keep updating. It's a great change of pace!

Little tidbits:

Absolutely, totally dead at work. I updated my portfolio and resume today. Might work on my personal website tomorrow. Not because I'm afraid I'll get fired (there's PLENTY of work coming in January), but just to prevent total brain atrophy. I'm not complaining though! I've been waking up at 4:30 AM the last four nights or so and haven't been able to fall asleep until 6 AM. If I were busy at work, I'd probably just stay up and gut through the day, so it's been lovely to fall back asleep and gradually wake up around 8:30. Getting in to the office at 10 and leaving by 4:30 has also been lovely.
----
We had Lovey over on Saturday to make CRABCAKES. It's crab season and Whole Foods actually had steamed, cracked crabs for $3.99/pound. Lovey is a Baltimore native so we had a great time trying to figure out some Old Bay recipes. When I say 'we', it was really Lovey and Jrex going to town. Poor Dovey is in school and needed to study all weekend and I just hung out and chopped salad ingredients.
----
On Sunday night, we had a casual supper club. Pizza, wine and salad. The real purpose was to break open Civil Engineer's new game: Settlers of Cataan. It took and hour to set up (or that's what it felt like). Once we started to figure it out, it got interesting. It's an egaletarian, board-game version of Civilization. You get two settlements and two roads to start. Then you roll dice to determine who gets what commodities. If your settlement touches a hex shape with the number on it, you get the wheat, sheep, coal or brick pictured. There are knights, robbers and merchant ships. We all started to get into it, but then it was too late to continue. Next time we'll start in the afternoon. Has anyone else played? We still haven't figured out what to do with the ships and trading.
----
Jrex and I are sorting through the financial stuff. I think we've come up with a 'middle way'. Rather than splitting accounts and dividing up our income, we've set up a separate account for the stuff I spend money on: train, tithe, haircut, spending, gifts. That way, I'm not bleeding into money he had set aside to put in our savings account. And I can tell exactly what I have to spend without dealing with his massive spreadsheet method. (Me+Excel=misery) We just started on Saturday, so we'll see how it goes, but I'm hoping it simplifies things for both of us going forward.

AND last but not least: I can see SNOW from the windows at work! I haven't seen snow during ordinary life in three years now. It rained hard the other night and in the mountains that line the East Bay, the top elevations are dusted white. It finally feels like winter. (I know, I know, I'm not going to be getting much sympathy from most of you, but seeing snow makes me happy.)

December 4, 2009

Working from home

After all my posts about busy work, we've had a totally dead week. I got so tired of twiddling my thumbs in the office, I decided to 'work from home' today. Thus far? Cleaned rooms, doing some laundry, talked with my sister. We have more work coming in January, so it's not like we're in danger of layoffs, it's just going to be a very slow month.

Which is a nice change of pace!

Of course, as soon as work slows down, we start packing in the personal events. The next two weekends are already booked. Then on Monday the 21st, Mom K comes to town (on a one-way ticket!!) We both have to work that week, at least through the morning of Christmas Eve. Then that whole next week, I'm required by my job to take PTO. Which means Mom and I will get lots of time to hang out together. Thankfully, Jrex is planning to take most of the time off as well, so we're already planning some fun day trips and restaurants to enjoy.

I need some advice though. Mom and Dad K's wedding anniversary is December 23rd. We both will be working that day (which leaves her here in the apartment alone). What should we do to acknowledge her first anniversary since his death? I was a horrible daughter for my Dad in this. I always thought of him on November 1st, but never emailed or called. I literally had no idea how to handle it. What do you say? "I know you're thinking of Mom and it's a hard day." Obviously. I didn't even do that.

Do we do a special dinner? Have a candle-lighting ceremony? Tell stories about Dad? I know the principle that we're supposed to follow her lead, but I want to also give her permission to remember and grieve if she wants to do that. I suspect that my sister-in-law's focus has been to help Mom avoid thinking about Dad. I know that's not really a good solution and not a healthy way to grieve. I just don't know how to do this in a way that's cross-culturally sensitive and not just my family's version of 'how to grieve' (in which my special gift seemed to be to get people to cry).

Any suggestions? Anyone who's lost a spouse, what should we/could we do?

December 2, 2009

Make it consistent

As many of you know, in California Proposition 8, that marriage is between one man and one woman, passed by 4% of the vote.

At work the next day one of my gay coworkers declared, "If marriage is that sacred, I propose we add a ballot measure to outlaw divorce." I thought that was a very logical extension of the law.

Looks like it's in the works!
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2009/11/30/national/a111733S84.DTL

November 30, 2009

For what am I grateful?

  • That when I'm sick on Thanksgiving, I can lounge around in bed and read books.
  • That Jrex and I can survive a big money fight (I overspent the budget). I'm grateful that we've learned tools for listening that even allow us to learn more about each other and how we think in the process. My Mom always had money-related hissy fits. The sad truth is that as a child, it meant that I learned to let such rants roll off my back. Also, no matter how much she kept repeating that there was no money, there was always enough--so I don't have a sense of money as a static element. It's always felt very fluid to me. Because of that poor Jrex has had to repeat himself, re-articulate his points, find new analogies. Do that over and over to get through to me enough to really change my mindset. It's changed slowly over the years, but it's been a very hard process for both of us.
  • Smooth sailing with our new client. It's refreshing to have a smart, responsive client for once! Of course, that's also because it's a smaller show, so there are fewer approvers.
  • One thing that amazes me: we've only been here three years, but it already feels like we have a great community. That usually takes 4-5 years. I'm grateful to be surrounded by other people who are social catalysts instead of me being the main one.
  • A silly little dog who tries to make me chase her around the house. Has she still not learned that I'm not a morning person and such craziness needs to wait until the afternoon?
  • A new project that seems to be progressing well.
  • Jrex's mother joining us for over 2 weeks for Christmas and the New Year.
  • Climbing partners who push me past my comfort zone and who listen to life's ongoing dramas.
What's on your list?

November 23, 2009

Movie Nights

We actually had early enough nights this weekend to watch two movies. From NetFlicks, we'd ordered Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. It was really vulgar, but also really funny. During some scenes (rabid raccoon, flashing at the Asian party, the food gorging at the end) we just had to fast forward, it was too much. Yet the movie hit (and burst) almost every racial stereotype in funny, smart ways. Responsible, law-abiding, hard-working Korean? Check. Smart, geeky, trying-to-be-cool Indian guy? Definitely. Black men imprisoned for being in the wrong place with the wrong skin color? Check and check. Masochistic, power-hungry white guys? Too many checks to count.

We're looking forward to what they do in Guantanimo.


Last night we watched Definitely, Maybe. Now, we enjoyed it, but we both have a sap-factor and like romantic comedies. This one plays with expectations more than most, and I like that. There's also a great father-daughter relationship that is fun to watch.

Basically the daughter demands to know the story of how her Dad met her Mother. The Mother just sent the Dad divorce papers. He tries to wiggle out of telling the story with, "It's complicated". Then he tells his daughter that he'll tell her the story, but he's changing all the names and some of the facts. The movie jumps back and forth between the flashbacks and the Dad and daughter interactions. The complicated part comes from his tangled history with three different women over the 10 years before his daughter's birth.

The movie also begs the question: are Isla Fisher and Amy Adams the same person? (Isla is on the left)

November 20, 2009

Gossip...

What a day. One of the things keeping me really busy has been a confernce for 15,000+ people. It just finished. Anyway, I found out today that the C.E.0. had a hissy fit yesterday. People weren't going into his big speech session and he jumped all over our company and his own employees about it. He made them turn out the lights in every other part of the confernce centr to force people to go hear him speak. He screamed at his employees and called them idiots. He threatened to fire us as an agency. He made our senior executive here in the local office call our worldwide exec. The rumor is that our World Leader told the Local Leader that if the client was going to treat people like that, feel free to fire the client. Good answer. We didn't fire them, but it was a good answer.

Anyway, as of today, the client-side account lead, who bore the brunt of Meglomaniac's wrath has resigned immediately. I totally respect her, but she was the main person who buffered us from the client's craziness. I'm SO glad I'm not the lead designer on that show. What a mess.

On a much smaller, less exciting level, I worked until 9 pm last night but came up with three strong concepts to show a different client today. They really liked them. I'll spend next week polishing them and then we'll go back a week from Monday. It feels like it takes 4-5 days to work my way past the blank canvas and make something work. Then I think I'm fast cause I can pull together the presentation in two days. Yet I always forget how long it takes me to get there.

Jrex has been very sweet throughout the process: making food, picking me up when it gets late, letting me go climbing on my early nights. I love him.

Thank GOD I didn't marry a Meglomaniac!

November 17, 2009

Creative Process

As a designer, each time I have to come up with a new idea, it's terrifying. I'm always afraid I won't be able to think of anything. Over the years I've developed rituals that keep the fear to a low murmur. I eat some food, grab water to have near me, turn away from the computer and have a stack of smooth, creamy paper in front of me. With pen in hand and music on (at work, my iPod with noise cancelling ear buds), I begin to sketch.

No matter how afraid I am, whenever I take the time to sketch, I manage to come up with something. Then I work on refining it on the computer. The few times I've tried to go straight to the computer, I waste hours futzing around to no avail.

Right brain. Left brain. The keys to the design life.

Does anyone else have rituals that get them over their fear factor? Like a batter tapping the bat four times, spitting twice and then waving the bat overhead while waiting for the pitch, what gets you to the plate?

November 11, 2009

Brain Drippings

I like NaBlaPo (or whatever it's officially called). Lots of bloggers commit to writing one entry a day. Just when everyone gets tired and busy, there's a fresh energy injection into the blogosphere.

I wish I had the mental capacity to participate.

Blog posts I enjoy reading delve into emotions and events while reflecting on meaning. The reality right now is that I don't have time to FEEL, much less reflect! It's so sad. I finish work at 8:30-10 pm, stumble home, read a little and go to sleep, stumble out of bed, walk the dog and head for work. We're finishing things for a 10,000 person conference that opens on Monday, so that's intense. Plus, I'm creative lead for a new client. We are tasked with developing the show's theme and look and feel. They want to finish it up by Thanksgiving. Today I went down there with Hapless, our creative director and Energized Sadness, one of our account executives. We had a great meeting, and by next Friday I have to deliver mood boards and directions for the branding. I feel a bit rusty, but excited. I would just like the time to really think about it and come up with some fun, creative solutions, but see above . . .

Anyway, just wanted to tell you why my posts have seemed 'distant' (aka bland) lately. I'm hoping December will be a time of refreshing and recuperating from all this!

Other tidbits:
  • Our current Big Client gave away four round-trip plane tickets. I won one of them. I'll probably use it to visit my bro and sis in Seattle, unless we have some family emergency across the country again.
  • I'm getting a reputation within my department for being hyper-organized and for being everyone's favorite designer. It's nice to feel more and more confident in what I do, but I don't want that to be off-putting to my design buddies.
  • Jrex is close to resubmitting his paper! Can't wait for that to be accepted (pray, pray, pray)
  • The mutt grew a beautiful coat of fur for winter, and then we hit two weeks with temps in the 60's and 70's during the day. I looked down at her this morning and realized her fur was coming out in huge clumps. Stupid global warming.
  • Instead of going to LA to visit Jrex's sister and family for Thanksgiving, we found out last weekend that even though they talked about it, she's not really expecting us. Oh, and Mom needs to be with us for Christmas, that's ok right? We've adjusted to the surprise, but it was a bit of whiplash for both of us.

November 8, 2009

AWOL

I've dropped off the face of the earth. Why? Busy enough at work that I don't have time to troll the internet. That sounds like a respectable reason. Oh, friends, I'm SO important and SO busy. Please forgive me. Blah. Blah. Blah.

The sordid truth? Well, I am busy at work, but at home I've been obsessed with finding THE laptop sleeve. It has to fit easily in my AWESOME messenger bag (mine just has black trim, not the blueness you see here) Which means, ideal at 14.5 inches wide x 11 inches tall. WITH a pocket to stash gear. AND handles in case I need to run out without the big bag. Oh, and look good without being too girly or too geek-head. PLUS under $30 would be great.

I swear I've looked at a hundred variations on the theme.

Built's Cargo Bag, $45. A little tall for my bag and no handles.

Cocoon's portfolio bag would be perfect, but it's too big to fit my messenger bag. $60 (but I wouldn't have to buy an additional bag for all the cables, power cords, mouse, etc.)
SFBags. Really, really boring, but snug fit and optional flap. $42. Flap is $15.
I might give up on the gear pocket and go with this one by Skooba. It's on sale for $18. Orange interior, plus the flaps open up and become handles. If I get this one, then I have to look around for a case for the other crap that goes with toting a laptop for travel.

Which brings me to the problem with the internet: I like to know all my possibilities. When I looked at houses, I wanted to see every house in the city that fit my criteria. It helps me to not have regrets later. Silences the what-ifs. Allows me to feel content with how I spent my money. If that involves seeing 20 houses, that's doable, even if it drives your realtor a little crazy. If it involves checking out three stores and then going back to the first one to get the third item I looked at? Also doable. Shopping online? It's overwhelming.

It also means I don't have a good reason for my on-line silence. Who has time for FB or friends when one is shopping every night! (oh, and reading novels, playing with the dog and waiting for a husband to finish working on his paper so one can chat for five minutes before going to sleep. Well, even that's a lie since I keep saying, "I'm going to stay up and 'work' a little longer, dear. Sleep well!").

Is anyone else this obsessive? I go to Goodwill and pull thirty things off the shelf and end up buying five of them. I do acknowledge how silly this blog post is! Which is why I haven't been blogging much. It's the case of only being able to write about what I'm thinking about. And if I write about THIS, I'll have to face how crazy I've become.

Ah, madness. And blindness. And now for sleep...

October 29, 2009

A little bit of this and that

I woke up this morning and just stared at my clothes shelves for a long, long time. If I could barely figure out what to wear, is it any wonder I've been having trouble figuring out what to blog about?

Nothing dramatic is or isn't happening. I'm in the catch-all status at work, and I find if I don't know what I'm doing, I'm listless and unmotivated. It's easier to troll around the internet than to do the two or three small tasks I'm supposed to do at work. Heck, I don't even fill the time with valuable trolling: learn new effects in Illustrator or Photoshop! Design a cool holiday shirt to give to friends and family! Plan trips with friends in January and February (trips are in the works, I should figure out details)!

Nah. Click. Click. Eat because I'm bored. Click. Click.

Jrex is finishing up his experiments to try to pull together data so he can finish his paper and resubmit. Means he's often busy until fairly late at night. So I chat with friends or watch movies or read.

Just finished the third in a fun set called The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier. A bit fantasy, a bit history and a lot of wonderful characters. She reveres the Druidic traditions of 6th century Scotland while also respecting the Christian 'new faith' that was just beginning to come into the British Isles.

My father listed our house! No solid offers yet, but 15-20 people came through for the open house. I suspect it was listed a little high, but we'll see what comes of it.

The man shown in this mural came by to check out the house. I used to babysit for his kids. His wife is a wonderful, gentle spirit. He's a nice guy (at least to babysitters), but in neighborhood politics, he was on the side of the gentrifiers and my parents and their friends were on the side of the co-existers. As in, kick out the low-income neighbors and bring in the yuppies, or let's figure out a way to all be in community together. At my mother's funeral, he stood outside the church smiling and greeting people as they came in: he was running for City Council at the time.

I told Dad that if that guy buys our house, Mom won't let him into heaven until she's beat him up first! He laughed.

October 26, 2009

Where I'll be finding my Christmas Presents this year

I've talked about this one before, but the video below is a really well-done reminder about fair trade and how it impacts the world.



If you want to shop, visit http://tradeasone.com/

October 21, 2009

Parallel yet divergent lives


We watched The Motorcycle Diaries on Monday night. It's a year in the life of Ernesto Guevero, later to be known as Che Guevero, and his best friend Alberto. In that year, Guevero encounters poverty, politics, indigenous people, and lepers while becomes more and more disturbed by class and civic divides.

The whole time we were watching it, I was struck by the parallels to Brother Sun, Sister Moon which tells of the early life of Francesco of Assisi, later known as St. Francis.

I think Motorcycle Diaries is a better crafted movie, but I was struck by how these two (good-looking, according to the movies) well-off young men both dealt with similar issues.

One of the logical responses to the suffering in the world is to decide that a loving God would never permit such things, therefore such a God doesn't exist. Che Guevera chose that solution. Francesco believed that God chooses to work through the humble and the weak and he began to see God in the lepers and beggars. He chose to cast off (literally) his worldly position and to place himself with the 'lowly'. In doing so he found grace.

One man couldn't believe in a revolution without guns, the other trusted the longer term, riskier idea that love WILL transform, even the powerful.

I think by instinct and pragmatism, I'm more like Che than Francesco. I want to be DOING whatever needs to happen. I chafe every time the Lord brings me back to the basics of loving him and asking who He wants to love that day through me. It seems too small, too simple. It was disturbing to think about how fragile my faith felt as I watched through Guevera's eyes. I have trouble seeing beyond what's in front of me. I don't like the insulated life we're living here in the 'burbs. It makes it too 'easy' to have faith. I prefer the robust earthiness of a faith that deals with the crap of life and can still find something eternal peeking through. Like grass slowly shifting concrete, Life persists.

It would be cool to show the movies as a double feature and have a discussion afterwards.

October 19, 2009

THIS is why I haven't done Christmas letters since moving to California

In Cincinnati, the leaves were turning. My last two days, we had the heat on in the house and wore coats and scarves outside.

When the weather starts to shift, my thoughts turn inward. I begin to reflect, to want to stay indoors more than be outside. The colder it gets, the more profound that hibernation becomes. It makes it very natural in the dark of winter, to light the warm thoughts about the past year and to send that out to those I love.


(This photo is purely for Hilary...)


When I got back here, the next day was sunny. I wore a tank top with a light shirt over it and a pair of long shorts. It's a very strange thing to 'complain' about, but I miss the seasonal slowing down. Granted, I don't want the upstate NY amount of hibernation. Baltimore and Cincinnati both had the perfect balance: three months of every season.

October 14, 2009

I think I started an avalance

In addition to the high school reunion, I came home with the intention of helping to clear out our family home so that Dad would have the option of selling it sometime this year.

I scheduled Salvation Army to come and do a pickup. I called "College Hunks Hauling Junk" and they'll be here tomorrow. (I gotta admit, it's more fun when you're making a pile of musty old blankets and papers and you get to say, "This is for the hunks." And it's especially wonderful when your father says it!)

We've torn our way through the top floor, most of the kitchen, Dad's bedroom. I've started going through the kids books in the living room. I found our stash of Pogo books, our 1950's Barbies (very bad haircuts on those babes!). OTRsis instructed me to take photos of her stuffed animals and then go ahead and give them away. We've avoided the Basement of Doom, but must face it today.

One of my classmates is a developer here in the neighborhood. He and his wife have been looking for a single-family house on our street. Apparently, O street is THE street to live on in our neighborhood. The little trees that were planted when we were kids have grown into a flowering mass that makes our little block feel like an oasis in the city. They came through on Sunday to look around. Definitely interested, not in a rush.

I wasn't either. I thought maybe Dad might sell next year. The realtor came yesterday. She confirmed what I've been telling Dad: don't worry about fixing it up, just clear it out and clean it and it will sell well. Sure it's beat up, but whoever moves in here will already love old houses and will want to fix it up according to their tastes anyway.

Dad and the realtor chatted away. Then she pulled out a listing agreement, and he signed it! The house goes on the market a week from Sunday!!!

That's crazy talk. The house next door sold in 23 days. This one isn't as perfected as that one was, but it's a charming, quirky little house and should go quickly. It's actually freaking me out a little. One of my own charming, quirky characteristics is being comfortable thinking about any theory, but then being surprised by my emotions when theory becomes reality.

I'm not entirely clear what Dad's plans are at this point. The one he's talked about most is buying an empty loft and paying to have a condo built into it. It looks like he might make a fair amount of money on this house, so that's actally very realistic. The realtor thinks they can do well buying an empty space since no one is buying right now. She's on the hunt for a building with an elevator and a 1500 square foot space.

In the meantime, I've been plugging Seattle. Not because I don't want Dad to remain here where he's a bit of a celebrity (aka Character), but because I've learned the hard way that it's better to plan for the worst. Unfortunately, if something bad happens, nothing compares to family.

October 12, 2009

Home Again

I'm working from home this week. Literally. In Cincinnati. I'm in my Dad's bedroom, taking over his desk until Thursday.

I came home for my 20th high school reunion and to help Dad clean and organize the house. I'm currently downloading some updates and drivers, so trying to do a quick post while I wait (i.e., this will be scattered and likely full of typos)

Impressions from the reunion:
"OTRgirl, you look just the same! You haven't aged a day. You're still as funky as ever."

(Due to some fun family drama, I'd spent the morning running around to the pharmacy. I didn't have time to clean up before the school tour, so I ran out with leggings, boots, miniskirt, cute jacket and my little wool cap.)

My Sadie Hawkins date (who has now been with his partner for the past 10 years) was there. A couple of his comments: "You didn't bring your husband either? I can say this to you then, I told my partner not to come. Honestly? There are so many of us here who want to catch up, who wants to waste time talking to someone's spouse?!" I'd been sad that Jrex wouldn't be able to make it, but it probably was for the best.

A note about our Sadie Hawkins date. He was from the 2nd wealthiest suburb in Cincinnati. Grew up going to cotillions. One of the popular kids, tall, thin, dark and handsome. From 7th-9th grades, I'd been completely embarrassed about living in the ghetto. I'd always said I lived downtown, near the library. It was sort-of true: I could walk to the library in 15 minutes. By 10th grade I mostly stopped caring what other people thought about me, but I had residual fears of being judged. DS picked me up at our house and we went down to Mulane's for dinner. Since I'd asked him, it didn't feel like I could ask him to pay for dinner, but I couldn't afford to pay much. We went dutch. Mulane's had great food, but it was in the bottom of a downtown office building. Nothing fancy.

At the reunion, DS was talking to me and one of the other kids from the art room. He said, "Oh my God. I think I might have told you this on FB, OTRgirl, but in high school, I thought the two of you were so sophisticated. I just thought you were just beyond high school. For Sadie Hawkins, I picked OTRgirl up at this cool townhouse and we ate ate a really sophisticated restaurant. It was so much fun." I rolled my eyes and said it certainly wasn't how I felt at the time!

Overall, it was like our 10th renunion. A reminder that we went to a great school and that I actually likes a lot more people than I remembered. In a city that is often segregated by class and race, our high school drew kids from all walks of life. Just from being forced to deal with so many different people, we received great training. Our classmates are scattered all over the country and the world. My Dad told me that when he joined the Cincinnatus Society, they did introductions. People weren't impressed by his Dartmouth/Harvard Law credentials as much as they were by the people who'd graduated from my high school.

October 5, 2009

Out of the Kettle, into the Fire

So . . . my work load this week. As of this morning, it was all manageable. A Conference Guide (a few updates) and a User Guide (tweak the layout a little and then hyperlink the entire document to create an interactive PDF. Which means, click the content on the Table of Contents and you'll jump to that page in the document. Fun, huh?)

Then, today, it all changed. One of our internal account leads is working on a small show. I've earned her respect since she was the lead on the last big conference where I was design lead. She's slow to trust and very demanding. Her client used to work for that big conference's mother company. She's also very demanding and very slow to trust. It didn't make sense to throw them a new designer. Which means we're bringing in someone to do my hyperlinking and I'm jumping into this one.

Deliverables by Friday?
-Banner
-Signage
-Program Guide
-Pocket Schedule
-Badge layouts, six variations
-Table Cards
-Powerpoint Holding Slide

I have a few elements that were already designed, but I have to layout all of those, get approval and layout production files. By Thursday night. I fly out Friday morning for Cincinnati.

(Going to my high school reunion as well as going through all Healthcare Proxy, Living Will, Executor documents with my Dad. Help organize the house so he could be ready to sell it. Ironically, all of that was on the agenda BEFORE my father-in-law's accident. As you can imagine, it's even more imperative now.)

If you don't see any updates this week, I'll leave you to guess why...

September 29, 2009

A study in contrasts

"Come play in my campground. You need to find a sleeping bag." She points to a towel on the floor, "There's one!" I grab it and a pillow from the couch and together we huddle under the sheet that drapes from the piano over the bench.

Nights in the hospital, days of coming back to 'rest' and play with Jrex's niece. As hard as it must have been on Asian niece to be around all the chaos and swirling emotions. It was wonderful for the rest of us to have a tangible reminder that life goes on no matter what.

Below are photos to sum up the contrasting experiences.

We had to ask the nurses to turn the bottle so Mom's pastor wouldn't see the label.

I felt a bit selfish leaving Jrex and his Mom with Dad in the hospital as I jaunted over to Manhattan. No regrets though! It was wonderful to wander the city and check out a fashion show. I was wrong, it wasn't part of the official fashion week in Bryant Park. Just a posh show in a photo studio. But, hey, the editor of French Vogue was there!



I sat on the floor with Asian niece in my lap as all the ridiculously tall/skinny girls teetered past on their six-inch heels. Her rapt eyes followed every outfit as I said, "Aren't the outfits beautiful?" To which she replied, "Yeah. My brother made them ALL."

I definitely had shoe lust...

Though Asian niece's tulle skirt stole the show...

September 24, 2009

Brain-dead harvest

Last night we finished dinner by 8 pm, which is unheard of in our house! Normally we start cooking at 7:30 and eat around 9 pm. Anyway, the beauty of leftovers allowed us to watch TV all evening long. Not our normal way of spending time, but we both felt like being brain-dead.

First up, Mercy. A hospital dramedy from the nurses' perspective. Lots of great premises and even some very funny moments, but SO heavy handed. Jrex and I looked at each other at one point and wondered if it was possible to jump the shark in the very first episode. I'll probably check back in a month or so to see if it settles down.


Next up, my new love: Glee. Stories and songs from a high school glee club. Should be cheesy, instead it's delightfully quirky. Last night's dancing football team was Fabulous! Must be home by 9 pm on Wednesdays now!


Finally, when we were about to turn off the TV, we started watching Eastwick and ended up watching the whole episode. It should be annoying, but it was funny, well-written and intriguing. I might watch here and there, keep it casual, but it was fun.


Anyone else catching a fun, new show?

September 21, 2009

Home at last

We arrived back in the Bay Area yesterday afternoon. When we picked up our dog from Ms. Candy and Civil Engineer's house, they'd made us dinner to take home. We'd had grand plans for cooking a wonderful meal to celebrate our homecoming, instead we ate and fell asleep by 7 pm.

-------
So . . . Korean funeral customs. No one told us the 'uniform' for men was a black suit, white shirt and black tie. Jrex and our Chinese-American brother in-law both had the black suit, but Mom K was very upset when she saw their colored ties. Of course, she saw them right before we left for the funeral home, so there was no time to go buy ties.

It was an open-coffin/viewing service on Friday night. We got there early to set up photos of and by Dad K. When we went up to look at the body every single one of us thought they'd put the wrong guy in the room. After two months in the hospital, his hair was long, so they'd slicked it back Italian-style (Staten Island has a huge Italian population. You do what you know!). They'd over-padded his face, puffed his lips and coated him in medium-brown makeup. When we compared notes later, each of us checked a different body part to confirm it was Dad: I looked at his stubby hands, Jrex checked for the caved-in skull (where they'd removed bone after his head bleed), Mom looked at his ear (which had worn away during his time in the hospital), YJ looked at his nose.

After a two-hour service (in Korean), Mom stood and gestured for all of us to come forward. I put a hand on my Dad's leg (I was fairly sure whatever was going on didn't include him). We all muddled forward and eventually were lined up according to age/rank on the far side of Dad's coffin. People began to line up and we realized it was a receiving line! Each person there stood or knelt in front of Dad's coffin, then came over and hugged Mom (many of them weeping profusely), then shook Jrex's hand, shook my hand, shook YJ's hand, shook Brother-in-Law's hand and then bowed their way down the rest of the relatives. Each time I glanced to my right, it looked like a wave as all fifteen relatives bowed in return. Thank God MN mentioned the two-handed shake in earlier comments! At least I knew to do that much.

THEN it turned out we had to go back on Saturday morning to do yet another Korean service with a different set of pastors doing sermons, prayers and benedictions. AND another receiving line. After that, Jrex had to walk out ahead of the body while carrying a photo of Dad. When we got in the limo to go to the cemetary, Mom K made Jrex ride in the front seat of the limo with Dad's picture: no one was allowed to go ahead of Daddy.

We rode in respectful silence all the way to the crematorium. Once there, each of us were given a rose as we walked in. Jrex placed Dad's picture among the flowers at the foot of the coffin. We added Dad K's Bible, a wooden cross he'd made and a stained glass butterfly that my Dad had given Mom K after he arrived Friday afternoon. Then there were more prayers, another sermon and a hymn. Next each of us put a rose on top of the coffin. Then we each went back up to bow in front of the coffin. The funeral director started to freak out that none of us were leaving and asked Jrex to have people start filing out from the back of the room.

After that we gathered at a local Asian buffet for lunch. Each time key guests arrived or left we had to get up, bow, say hello/goodbye, walk them to the door, bow again and then return to the table to eat. After a while, Brother-in-Law and I played the 'We're not Korean' card and just let Jrex and YJ handle the family greeting.

I'm glad I went back for the funeral and I'm very, very glad it's all over.

During the receiving line, directly across the room from me stood the enlarged photo of Dad K. It was a portrait I'd taken of him during our Yosemite trip last year. He's grinning and the strap of his Nikon camera is showing beneath his jacket collar. I kept looking at the picture and tearing up. As much as he drove me CRAZY, he was also generous with his time, loving beneath his gruff exterior and very full of life.

While we zoned out during the ceremony at the crematorium, I watched Jrex looking at his Dad's photo. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "He wasn't an easy man, but he was a good man." Jrex nodded in quiet agreement.

I'm so glad that Dad K is now finding out how much he's loved without all the life pain that scarred his ability to give and receive it during his life on earth.

September 17, 2009

Jrex was right

Two nights ago, Dad K's breathing had slowed to four pants with a 45-second gap. Then the nurses came in to turn him and suction him. His breaths returned to four breaths with a 15-second gap. Jrex asked the hospice nurse if they could go 24-hours without suctioning.

They did. Dad K died early this morning. Peacefully.

Jrex is doing ok. He's in go-mode and not feeling emotional yet. I cried when he told me and have had a mild headache all day.

As a side note, I flew back to California Tuesday morning, picked up the dog that evening after working all day. Worked all day today and will be jumping on a red-eye tonight back to New York tonight. OTR Dad will join us tomorrow. Funeral tomorrow night.

Any particular Korean-American funeral customs I should be aware of? I feel very clueless.

September 14, 2009

And on and on

The tragic truth is this: you need a system to fail in order to die. Head, heart, lungs, another major organ, just one needs to stop and its over.

Dad K has a strong heart. His head injury affects his consciousness, not his bodily function. We thought his lungs would fail since he'd just had a raging pneumonia. However...he was intubated, which means there's a trach tube attached to his neck. It no longer connects to the ventilator, but it allows us to suction off fluid when it builds up and he begins to 'gurgle'. Each night since Wednesday we were convinced it would be the last, but we kept suctioning him. Making him comfortable. He's on a morphine drip, but no food or water. While it's true that all the machines were preventing his death rather than preserving his life, and it's true that the dying process can take time, we've been racking our brains to figure out why Dad is still alive. Is there a voice he needs to hear? Unfinished business? Have we done the wrong thing?

Jrex figured it out yesterday. With all his cancer patients, the fluid filled their lungs, they began to gurgle and they were gone within 48 hours. In our efforts to make things better, we've allowed all three major systems to continue to function at their optimum levels. The lack of fluid even has the effect of drying up the pnuemonia. His pastor saw him last night and said to Mom K, "Oh, he's off the feeding tube?! That's good. Now he can eat. I knew he was recovering."

There's plenty of tragedy to go around in all this: being in a unit without a hospice protocol, Mom not being able to tell her church what is going on, my niece having to watch us all coming and going from the hospital, Jrex having to tell yet another resident that he is an oncologist and we're all fine with the morphine level. My own personal tragedy is that I can't stay here any longer. The latest I could go back to work would be Thursday morning. We have a sales pitch on Friday where they specifically want to discuss the development of creative look and feel (which would be me). At the first pitch we made a big deal about the team they see is the team they get. If Dad had died last night, I'd have stayed through Thursday, but at this rate, I wouldn't be able to be here for the funeral anyway.

My creative director is relieved. My mother-in-law understands. My husband is supportive. I'm just really sad to go. (though I'll be honest and say that I'm more relieved than I can say that this next visit to the hospital will be my last! I really, really hate that vent unit.)

Tomorrow I'm hoping to post photos from today's fashion show! Jrex and his Mom stayed in the hospital while I went into the city to visit Swallowflight and check out Manhattan.

September 11, 2009

Impressions

Tuesday night 5:30. We thought he'd be gone within hours. Well, Jrex thought it would take 2-3 days. We hoped he was wrong.

It's Friday evening. He's still hanging on. Looks comfortable, serene even. His breathing has been ragged for two days now.

Every night the four of us, Jrex, his sister, his mother and I took shifts. Agreeing to wake each other if his breathing slows to one time per minute. It hasn't happened yet.

Hard to plan a funeral for this weekend at this point.

Last night, YJ's husband and daughter arrived. I'm sitting in Mom K's bedroom right now with Asian Niece walking her feet up my back. She's four, so doesn't know exactly what's going on. Jrex came home to shower and has collapsed onto the bed and I don't have the heart to wake him.

Each change in status has been emotional: taking out the tubes ('liberation' is the hospital-talk for it), increasing morphine, his breathing changing. Yet between those times of crying and praying we've laughed and teased and told stories.

Sometimes his right eye opens. "Yobo!" (husband), Mom greets him. "Opa," my sister in law says with quiet sadness. "It's ok, Abaji, we love you. You can rest," I say. Jrex watches us all, puts a hand on his Dad's swollen arm and smiles quietly. Over and over again.

Last night, I came home with YJ to pick up her family. I stayed at the house with Asian niece so Writer and YJ could go visit Dad in the hospital. I've never been so happy to 'take one for the team' and 'have' to stay here in a bed instead of propping in a chair with loud nurses right outside the drawn curtain.

"Accchhhoo0! Oh shit!!" was a recent favorite nurse exclamation. "Oh my Gawd, my dahctah hasn't filled my Ambian prascriptian yet." A discussion over the flu shot, "Ahr you gonna take that shat? No one knows what they put in it. They cahn't make me tahke it. What ahr they gonna do if Ah don't?" "Say hello to the judge."

On and on all night long.

Last night the pastor insisted on coming by. We'd avoided it for two days since the pastor kept telling Mom K to keep believing no matter what the doctors said. Mom blamed the doctors. Related that Dad was on his fourth pneumonia, had bedsores all along his right side. Said they insisted we take him off the vent. The pastor seemed ok, though sad. Mom seems better now that the secret is out.

Tonight, I'm back on hospital duty. Good times.

September 7, 2009

still waiting

Have you ever tried to make someone comfort care in secret? Apparently that's what we're doing here. Dad K's younger brother came to visit this past weekend. While it was fun to meet another one of Jrex's cousins and to see his aunt (who only spoke Korean), that meant that we couldn't make Dad comfort care. Mom didn't want Dad dying in front of his brother.

She also had me pray over Dad the first night, in front of his uncle/aunt/cousin, another niece/cousin, Mom, YJ. I had NO idea what to pray. I prayed for peace. For joy in the midst of our sadness. Stuff like that. Jrex pulled me aside to remind me that no one knows we're making him comfort care. I thought that just meant the uncle's family, but apparently it's everyone! How can we take him off a vent in secret?! We're avoiding telling the pastor because he'd pressure Mom to wait more. This is really frustrating.

It made me realize again how amazing Mom's death was. Our whole community knew. People knew they were coming to say their goodbyes. This is SO bizarre. Plus, every time she was in the hospital, she had a private room.

Dad's in a vent unit, which has open cubicles facing the center nursing area. In the next stall is an angry little woman who's figured out how to limit the oxygen feed so she sets off an alarm over and over and over. The nurses are forced to ignore her as she bangs on the arm of her bed, sets off the alarm, bangs her spoon. Last night a woman went OFF on the nurses. She was obviously very afraid about what was happening to her Mother, but took it out as anger at the nurses. It's really stressful.

Plus, it smells like a hospital.

Today's theory is to submit the paperwork. Then to withdraw care tomorrow.

September 4, 2009

The Letter that turned the tide

A week ago, Mom K woke up and prayed as usual. She felt somewhat peaceful about the idea of making Dad K comfort care, but as soon as she stopped praying, she started to get anxious, fearful and to feel guilty about the idea.

Then she checked the mail and found this letter from my Dad*:
Dear Mom K,

These are tragic times for you. I can imagine many of your emotions because I lost my wife twelve years ago. Know that both you and Dad K are in my prayers – a gift of peace for you -- a gift of healing for him.

And healing takes many forms. With My Wife’s cancer, we had prayer teams stacked up in our living room waiting to come upstairs to pray with her. At times she was too exhausted to see them, and we had to send dear friends away. I confidently expected Jesus to heal her – and He did – but far differently than I expected.

He healed her real hurts:
  • Her lack of trust for her father; her gut feeling that she’d never had a father who loved her.
And as a result –
  • Her lack of trust for her heavenly Father.
  • And her fear of dying.
He healed all those hurts before she left us on September 28, 1997. Jesus gave her a new father – my Dad. In the final two years of their lives, they truly became loving father and daughter to each other. They talked on the phone. They corresponded. At times, quite independently of me. Because she could trust my Dad, it became easier and easier for her to trust the LORD. And then, during the last two weeks of her life, she looked forward to death. She said again and again, “I’m going home.”

All that’s background to an understanding the Holy Spirit gave me this past week. I was talking with OTRgirl on the phone when I remembered an insight that My Wife and I learned from Catherine Marshall. She made the obvious comment that, as we age, our bodies and minds deteriorate. But then, she followed up with the startling comment that for Spirit-filled Christians, our spirits continue to grow and expand, even when our minds or bodies are useless.

And if so, Dad K’s situation may be far different than what we naturally assume. We tend to see a person in a coma as being partly gone. But, if Dad K’s spirit is flourishing under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, then these may be the best days of his life.

Dad K may be longing for release from bodily imprisonment, so he can be with Jesus in his glorified body. As it says in Hebrews 11:6, he may be longing for a better country—a heavenly one. If so, what’s holding him back? Perhaps his loving care for you.

That’s the leading I’ve been getting from the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s and yours,
OTR Dad
The letter confirmed much of what had come up when she prayed. She called Jrex and his sister and told them to call the nursing home and start the process.

Then she spent the rest of the weekend going back and forth emotionally and mentally. On Sunday night, she called Jrex in turmoil. I sat and prayed while they talked. Jrex was SO articulate and compassionate: "Mom, I feel completely peaceful about this decision, emotionally, theologically, ethically. But. The most important thing is that you feel peaceful. We don't want you to feel pushed into this." Then, a little while later, "Mom, you've been a good wife. You've loved and served Dad very well. You don't need to feel guilty about this decision." In the end she felt very tired and very sad, but peaceful.

Tomorrow is the day they are supposed to withdraw care. Jrex and I are on (separate) planes at 7 am, to get to NYC by 4 pm. I'll have my laptop with me and will try to keep you posted.

*He ran it by us first and we both thought it was great.

September 2, 2009

I really am sad, but now I'm also a little excited

This is going to feel a little off-topic, but work with me. We're flying out to New York Saturday morning. We were going to return on Monday the 14th. Yesterday Jrex called to say his sister had invited us to stay for a family event on Monday.

Jrex's sister married an older guy who'd been divorced. His son from his first marriage is in his 20's. And he's a fashion designer. And his Fashion Week spring show is that Monday.

Which means, the grand finale of our week with the family will be an outing to The City. For Fashion Week! How cool is that?! Maybe I'll see Metro Dad!

The dilemma is: what to wear!? I've got the nice black dress for the funeral. Jrex has his suit. We're fine there, it's just what to wear for Fashion Week?!! Yikes. I have a cool top I can wear, I just need to get very hip capri length jeans or leggings. I think I have shoes that can work. Jrex though...

Last night he got into the brainstorm about clothes. We figured we could sandpaper his rattiest jeans and make them stylishly shredded. He's got one 'cool' tshirt from The Brewer's Art back in Baltimore (stolen from me, but I'm only a little bitter). If he wears all that with a suit jacket and his Yankees baseball hat, I think he'll fit right in! The remaining flaw is the shoes.

I found him a pair of sneakers that I'm trying to convince him are totally in for men, but he thinks they're a bit weird.

The picture below isn't the exact shoe, but it's a similar idea. I need other people to tell him that this style shoe is what hip guys really are wearing these days. It's not just me being artsy.

August 31, 2009

I LOVE to fly!

Wednesday I flew to Roanok5 with three of my coworkers. Once there, I stayed up until 1:30 AM EST working on the final presentation. Woke at 6 AM to get ready, eat, print our script, rehearse and get to the pitch. We got to the client, set up, did the song and dance, packed up and raced back to the airport. Thursday afternoon we jumped back on planes to get home.

On the plane back, I shared a row with a very polite teenage boy. He offered to help me put my suitcase in the overhead bin, offered me a Tic Tac. Played his gameboy with earphones. We didn't have anyone in the middle seat and I was VERY happy with my seat placement. I sprang for the 'nap sack' with blanket, eye mask, ear plugs and neck roll and settled in to sleep the whole way home...

This is the part where you expect the crying baby, right? Hah! There were no children in sight. I'd finally wrestled away my anxieties about the pitch. I knew it had felt flat and not great, so I kept sloshing scenes around and around in my head. I FINALLY drifted off, when, for some reason the teenage kid decided it would be a good idea to work out his restlessness by drumming on the trayback table. For fifteen minutes. Then HE promptly fell asleep and left me with 5 hours left to read four magazines and stare out the window.

Movie? None on US A1rw@ys.

Oh, and dinner? They ran out of food.

The pitch? It didn't go well. We found out today that we didn't get the job. Sigh.
----------------

My next trip is Saturday. It's a much longer post, but basically, Mom K has decided to let Dad K be comfort care. They transfer him to hospice on Friday. She specifically asked that I come while he's still alive, so Jrex and I are trying to fly out together on Saturday. One of our friends here is giving me her airline miles. Another couple has agreed to watch the mutt. My boss told me I don't even have to pretend to 'work from home' while I'm there.

We're feeling relieved, peaceful and definitely sad. And hoping for no crying or drumming on the flight there!

August 21, 2009

It's just business

I've been invited to go to V1rginia next week to be part of a sales pitch. As part of my research before the trip, I spent two hours yesterday looking up remote-controlled cars (RC cars--for those in the know. And that's me now, baby!) We're proposing a team-building game using the cars, so I had to call a local hobby shop to get prices.

"Hi. Do you have the ________ in stock?"

"Hold on, ma'am, I'll check" (cue really bad pop songs) He came back on, "We don't. I can look it up for you, do you know if it has a specific number?"

I click over to the website and check, "No, it was due out this summer and may not have been released yet."

"Let me look" (more bad music), "Ma'am? I'm not seeing it in the system, can you tell me anything else about it."

"Well, it's a kit car not an RTR (ready-to-run)."

"Oh! That helps." After a couple minutes, he comes back with the price for the car. I ask him, "That's just the car, right, I'd still need to get the controller?" He confirmed that and chatted a bit, then I hung up.

My coworker laughed after I hung up and stated matter-of-factly, "That guy thinks he just met the woman of his dreams."

August 19, 2009

On Being Alone

Jrex has been gone for a week and a half. He was gone for three weeks, came home for nine days and then flew back to New York. This is the most time I've had alone since we got married. It's been long enough to think about what life would be like if I were single again.
  1. I don't like it.
  2. The evenings are long and it's hard to go to sleep in a big, empty bed.
  3. I wouldn't eat very well. I like cooking FOR someone, eating WITH someone. By myself? I live on English muffin pizzas, cereal, fa[s]t food and salads from Trader Joes.
  4. When he's here, I feel like I don't get as much done because we're sitting and talking. With him gone, I just avoid my evenings by reading or watching TV, so I don't get much done either way!
  5. I blame him sometimes when the house starts to feel cluttered; without him, it still gets cluttered! I just do a massive straightening once a week. I guess it's not all his fault...sigh. It's much more fun to blame someone else!
  6. If I were sole dog owner, I'd definitely find a middle-school kid and get a dog walker deal going. Jrex doesn't like the idea of a strange kid in the house, so he won't let me do that, but it's impossible to juggle this crazy job with a dog at home unless I have help.
Bottom line? I get to pick him up today and I'm SO (so) grateful that I'm not a widow. It gives me sympathy for Mom K as she still can't decide to let Dad go. Being alone is a formidable task and I honor my friends who are braving that frontier.

August 14, 2009

We interrupt today's regularly scheduled broadcast

. . . to bring your attention to this beautiful video. It starts a little slow, but is jaw-dropping by the end.

Proof that the Ukraine has talent, in the sand:



If anyone gets the Ukranian cultural references, please comment! I want to know why everyone is crying in the middle.

August 11, 2009

Drifting Along

Jrex is back in New Y0rk. His Mom still can't decide what to do. This is the one week where his sister and he are there together with their Mom. So, it's the one week they could make Dad comfort care and let him die together as a family unit.

I called Mom this morning to see how she's doing. Yesterday she said she gave up, she was ready to let God take Dad, but this morning she had a dream which she interpreted to mean Dad would be healed. I shared that with Jrex and he says she's done this cycle five or six times already. Dad has a bad day and she's ready to give up, then she has a dream, or reads a scripture, or someone gives her a phone number for a faith healer, and she's back into holding on mode.

I feel like an evil vulture to just be waiting for her to give up. What's wrong with me, why can't I jump on board the 'jump out of bed, Dad!' boat?

Too much experience? Listening to Jrex and the 'medical view'?

We've had so many conversations around all this. Christianity and the definitions of 'life'. Why do Christians resist dying so much when they have hope of eternal life? The Baby Boomers and a culture of entitlement being translated into how they die (or resist it). How few people in this country have been exposed to the dying process. The reality that if Dad is kept on the vent, then the means of his death becomes a septic bed sore or a super-killer pneumonia. That our friend who's a rehab doc has seen 15-24 year olds come out of month-long comas and go home, but never someone over 65. (any counter stories? Please comment!) And between now and then, it's endless rounds back and forth from nursing home to Emergency Room. (He's back in the hospital now after three days in the nursing home.)

It's all a big mash up in my head. All I know is that I feel so sad every time I think of Dad K being trapped in his body when he said repeatedly he never wanted this.

Last night, OTRdad called me and asked for an update. Then he prayed with me for Mom and Dad K. He saw a picture of Dad K right now being the chrysalis and his death releasing him to become the butterfly. I shared that with Mom K this morning, and she said, "I know. I know both sides." There's so much confusion around her right now. Such heavy decisions on her shoulders. Dad never wanted this for her since he knew she wouldn't be able to handle it.

This really, really stinks.

Of course, this means my blog has become a total downer. Welcome to the vulture's nest! Come on the death watch with me. It'll be FUN!

August 6, 2009

Constructive criticism, a forgotten art form

I've always been happy to collaborate with clients. You have ideas? Great, bring them to the table and lets solve it all together. No problem.

For the past week, I've been in Keynote/Powerpoint purgatory. Trapped with one of the VP's of sales. He has very strong opinions. I can respect that. He seems to like working with me better than anyone else in the creative department. Clearly a man of taste. However . . . he jumps on me for missing a text update buried in a chart. And then the next night, misses my email that says, "sending you the first three of four pages to make sure we're on the right track". When he writes back to give me feedback, he says, "Last page missing, info incorrect. Can't use this tomorrow."

Repeat cycle. And rinse the irritation each time if you can.

August 3, 2009

On a lighter note...

A few years ago, while camping in the Adirondacks (mountainous state park in upstate NY), Jrex chatted up some park rangers. Without much prompting, they all began to swap bear stories. The black bears in the high peaks region have been geniuses at figuring out ways to steal camper's food. (Two bears hanging on steel cables to bring it down and the food bags with it. Sending cubs up the trees to cut the bear bag lines, etc)

The most notorious bear in their stories was Yellow Yellow. Named for her two ear tags, she was bold enough to steal food from the pan — as it was cooking. She never threatened any hikers, just stole their food.

Now she's made it to the New York Times:
...In one corner of the Adirondacks, campers started to notice that the BearVault, a popular canister designed to keep food and other necessities safe, was being compromised. First through circumstantial evidence, then from witness reports, it became clear that in most cases, the conqueror was a relatively tiny, extremely shy middle-aged black bear named Yellow-Yellow.
Read the rest of the story here.

--------
And, for a little more link love, I found a site that features endangered animal noises as free downloadable cell phone ringtones. Check it out. Be nice to me, or I'll assign your number the sound effect of a hyena.

July 31, 2009

The long road...

Jrex is home again. There's no change in his Dad's status. He's still non-responsive. The social worker called Jrex yesterday to ask the family to visit three nursing homes and select the one they want. Which made his Mom really start facing reality. She's been hoping and praying for a miracle (understandably). Their whole church has been as well. Yet she knows that Dad never, ever wanted to be in a nursing home.

So, we're coming toward the hard choices. He's on a vent and doesn't seem to do well off of it, so that may be 'option 3'. In New York State, where they live, if someone is put on a permanent feeding tube, it takes a court order for them to be taken off of it. I doubt she could ever allow that anyway.

So, Jrex came home. His sister will fly back on Monday for a week. Then Jrex flies back out for another week and a half. We talked last night about me flying out when/if they make the decision to take Dad off the vent. It will likely take 24 to 48-hours from that point. I could say goodbye and be there for his Mom during those last few difficult days of waiting. I remember from my Mom, those were the hardest days. No movement. The breaths coming after agonizing seconds of silence. Was that it? The LAST breath? Oh, she breathed again. Over and over and over.

When I spoke with my aunts last weekend, Aunt Gemstone told me that my grandmother actually went through a similar dying process as FIL. Grandma fell and hit her head. They flew her to the city to stop the head-bleed. Then she was in and out of a coma for the next three months. She had a series of strokes that meant she was mostly in the coma until she also became non-responsive. My aunts actually had to make the decision to withdraw care (no food or water. Just wet the lips and allow the dying process to occur). It took 12 days! (Grandma was a heavy woman so it took a while for the body to be depleted). Ugh. Definitely not something I can imagine Mom K being able to handle.

On a purely selfish level, it's SO good to have him home. To chatter happily about nothingness. On the phone long-distance, we've joked a bit, but it's obviously usually been serious content.

This weekend, I've actually got work to do! Blech. The hope is that I can drop him off to watch Harry Potter (which I watched with Science Editor, aka The Lizard, the other weekend). That buys me three hours to work here in the office. Then we're hoping to eat at a local Turkish restaurant for my belated birthday.

It's always strange when death and ongoing life butt against each other so closely. Of course the reality is they always do, but it's rare our eyes are open to see it.

Hug the people you love and enjoy them while you have them.

July 28, 2009

Etc.

I actually have a couple deadlines this week, so no time for a coherent post. Quick notes/thoughts:

-Jrex comes home on Thursday for a couple weeks. No change in FIL, he's still not responsive, but the family is waiting a couple more weeks before making any big decisions. Mom K is calmer and even starting to talk about what to do after Dad dies. Since visitors don't affect Dad anymore, they've been allowing people to come by. Jrex has been surprised how many people have wanted to pay their respects, not just for Mom's sake, but for Dad's. Apparently there's a 15-year old girl in the church who really loves him and it's mutual. She came by with a teddy bear and balloons. A pharmacist Dad's known for years stopped by and had tears in his eyes. Jrex has been amazed and touched by how deeply the people in the church care for both Mom and Dad. The pastor and his wife have visited every single day.

-Family reunion was in Milwaulkee this past weekend. I didn't get to go, but I did call one of my aunts, who then passed the phone to three of my other aunts who were in the car with her. Made me miss them even more.

-Today is my birthday and I thought I'd be really depressed without Jrex. I am sad, but he sent a card that arrived last night. Aunt Bird and OTRmama also sent cards. So, this morning I did a birthday breakfast before work and opened my cards. I felt very loved. I'm supposed to go out with coworkers today for drinks (we're all swamped though, so I don't think it will actually happen). Then, tonight, Smart Girl is taking me out to a fondue place. She's bringing wine and we'll have a great time. I've wanted to do fondue since we moved here, but Jrex isn't into it, so not having him here is working out fine! (ha--believe that and I'll sell you a bridge in NYC.)

July 22, 2009

Time

Yesterday morning as I prayed for Jrex and his family, I started to pray that the Lord would take Dad home. I got a nauseous feeling in my stomach. This has happened to me before and is usually an indication I'm heading off 'the path'. So I stopped and asked, "What are You doing then?"

I didn't hear a voice, no thunder or anything, but I got a quiet sense that He wanted me to know, "[Mom K] isn't ready yet. I'm giving her a little more time." Not the sense that He won't take Dad home, but to not yet actively pray for the end. I shared that with Jrex last night and we prayed together for Mom to hear what she needs to hear in order to be able to let Dad go.

It turned out their meeting with the medical team was today, not yesterday. I thought they'd be sending him off to a nursing home asap pending the outcome of the discussion. They will be sending him to a lower level of care (not in the SICU anymore), they will be putting in a feeding tube, but it's not quite a nursing home yet. Jrex asked about withdrawing care, but they said that it's too soon to tell if his brain is truly gone. They want to wait 2-3 weeks and then do an EEG to check for brain function.

At the moment, Dad has pneumonia, which could be impacting him. As a 75 year old in a coma for two-weeks, the likelihood of him sitting up and getting out of bed, even if he recovers brain function are slim to none. Jrex is trying to get Mom to opt for a DNI order (Do Not Intubate). She's signed the DNR (Do Not Resucitate; ie don't bring back from heart failure). Due to the pnuemonia, they'll likely have to put him back on a vent. (He's been off it the past three days and was breathing on his own.) Jrex's sister tried to get Mom to consider, "It would be easier to choose not to put him on the vent than it would be to choose to turn it off." Mom said she'd think about it, but I can tell she's just not ready for it.

One moral of this story is to put any of your end of life choices in writing. Dad said no tubes, no extraordinary measures, he told Mom he didn't want her making decisions he wanted Jrex (Dad knew it would be too emotional for her), but none of it is in writing. So here we wait.

Jrex's sister had another dream two nights ago. With reluctance she told Jrex she'd dreamt they got a call in the middle of the night that Dad was gone. Jrex told her that was his hope. I do think that will happen, but I don't think it will be in the next couple of days.

Mom is being given the gift of time.

July 20, 2009

The contrast experience brings

Jrex has seen a lot of death. Part of what makes him an amazing oncologist is that he's not afraid of it. In fact, part of his mission is to help individuals and families experience a 'good death'. What makes a good death? Acceptance. Saying farewell. Tying up loose ends. Meeting death with dignity (and even humor). We will all go into that good night. While there are definitely times to 'rage against the dying of the light', there are also times to say au revoir and lovingly send one's loved one ahead.

Jrex has seen that farewell coming for the last four days. Dad K's developed clots in his arm, which means a week after a head bleed, he's on anti-coagulants. So, either the clot gets loose and shoots into his lung (which could kill him) or he gets another head bleed (which would further incapacitate whatever's left of his brain function). Over the weekend, what responses FIL had have diminished. He's not turning toward voices. When Jrex lifts the eyelids, FIL's pupils are barely responding to light. If his foot is tickled, he doesn't pull away. He's going. Jrex has NOT told his mother or his sister what he knows.

In fact, three days ago, his sister YJ had a dream in which she saw FIL's spirit leaving his body and being pulled back over and over. She told Jrex about it. He heard that and thought, 'we need to let him go', while his sister said, "We're not doing enough to keep him here."

However, due to the miracles of modern medicine, we are at a horrifying juncture. They've taken him off the vent, but he's breathing on his own. He's fed through a tube for now. Two years ago, FIL specifically told Jrex he didn't want to linger on if there was no hope of recovery. The doctors have initiated a family meeting for tomorrow to discuss options. At the moment, Jrex sees two. Option 1: move what is left of FIL into a nursing home and wait untold days, weeks, months, years? What that theoretically allows is time for God to do a miracle. Option 2: make him comfortable. Wet his mouth so he doesn't feel thirsty, but let him go. Which could take three days or more.

I told him there's no way his Mom is ready for Option 2. I think it's what his Dad would prefer, but there's no way she could let that happen.

I just called him and he said they were in the hospital but he was really happy I'd given him a reason to leave the room. "What happened?!"

"Mom turned to me and said, 'He doesn't look good. He's getting worse right?' I told her yes. Then she asked, 'Is he going to make it?' and I said, 'I don't think so'. And then she started crying and calling his name and telling him we all want to see him. Don't go. Don't leave us. It is heartbreaking and I just couldn't be there anymore."

I don't want Dad K to not be here, but I don't want him to be held here when I know that we're holding him back from the presence of Joy. My prayer had become for total healing or total freedom. Now I'm asking that if the Lord isn't healing Dad K, that He would truly take him. Give us Option 3.

That Dad K may go gently into that good night. That Jrex would not be seen as the bad guy just because he's not fighting death. That Mom K would be able to say au revoir.
----------
...
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

—Dylan Thomas