Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, October 29, 2004

This may exceed my grouchy quota for the day

I went to a double baby shower last weekend. It was decent. Not too frilly and not too cutesy. The moms-to-be gave one another a variety of cloth diapers, and although both are expecting boys, it wasn’t overtly boyboytruckboytrainboybulldozerboy. This was nice. The one less-nice thing about it was a letter from a woman who doesn’t really know either of the moms-to-be. It was read aloud because this woman likes to write letters and have them read aloud. She didn’t actually attend, and given B’s response to the letter, that’s for the best.

This letter was framed as advice from one mom to new moms, but it didn’t quite end up that way. This mom recommended one book and said that no other baby book was worth reading. She insisted that it was a mother’s job to be with her child, not realizing (or caring?) that one mom would return to work full time within the months after her son’s birth. She commented more than once about the inherent delightfulness of the Little Pink Baby™, not knowing either couple well enough to know that one’s child will be biracial. (As Brooke put it, “Little Pink Baby™. What if K’s baby is just a little bit brown?”) Rather than advising harried moms to shower while their partners can watch the babe, she suggested a shower sling. She gave little mention to the bonding between the non-birth parent (although she used the word “husband” so many times, I though I might be straight when she was done) and the child, and she never once mentioned ways in which the co-parent might help pick up the slack. Both of these moms-to-be have very involved spouses, and neither would stand for her spouse not putting as much work into childrearing as she does. She gave them each a subscription to a parenting magazine that advocates against immunizations even though one is a public health researcher.

I’m not pregnant. I’m not a parent. I’m just really, really annoyed.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I give you

The Allergy-Free Cat

Really want a cat but have allergies? Have $3,500 to spend willy-nilly? Not willing to find some other kind of non-allergenic pet? Have no reservations with genetic modification of animals?

Then contact Los Angeles-based Allerca to secure your future pet.

Here's an article about it.

Apparently, there are not enough cute fuzzy mammals who need homes.

Monday, October 25, 2004

"Postcards of Grief" turns gossip rag

Elmo's secret identity is revealed.

It's a long road to being a star. Many walk alone.

New photographs show what our sources have stated for weeks. Elmo had been in a treatment program for so-called "Blowpop abuse," but now it seems that Elmo has fallen off the wagon.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Be honest

Is this too creepy?

Thursday, October 21, 2004


I’ve added some new links. If you think I should have added you but haven’t, email me.

I also ditched the Haloscan comments. The little fuckers disappear after four or five months, and I wanted to keep all of the little love notes you all wrote me. I’ll be able to keep the future notes, so type to your (and my!) heart’s content.

A few weeks ago, we had a face cord of wood delivered. While it looks a lot smaller in the shed, it was relatively impressive in its doubly deep stack in the driveway. Later that day, I discovered that we had a face cord of unfolded, clean laundry piled next to the cedar chest. All those clean clothes! It made me a little proud but was pretty discouraging all the same.

I picked up my new contacts and new glasses this morning. They were both ready yesterday, but Brooke wasn’t done working in time to drag me over to the eye clinic. I must say that if I had had glasses this comfortable and cute before, I don’t know if I’d wear contacts at all. Brooke has always thought that I look cute in glasses, but just between you and me, I think she has kind of a bookworm fetish. That said, my mom’s image in the bathroom mirror caught my eye earlier today. I pulled off my glasses to blink at my face/her image in the glass and immediately recognized the same person staring back at me. Weird.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Do your ears hang low? Do they wobble to and fro?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


It's lesbian poker.

The Breast Cancer Site

Give it a click a day, would you? They're working toward 500 mammograms by the end of the month.

Monday, October 18, 2004

When other people grieve

Print this out and carry it with you.
  • Call and email and send notes in the mail. Don’t expect a reply.
  • Don’t come by without comfort food and a pocket full of Kleenex.
  • Offer to do laundry or clean the bathroom or wash dishes or mow the lawn or buy groceries. Do this daily until someone takes you up on this offer.
  • If the bereaved is out of town and you have a key, stop by to bring in the mail, scratch the cats, and stock the freezer. Check the answering machine and call with important messages. Throw out the junk mail. If you don’t have a key, just check on the outdoor plants and mow or shovel.
  • Depending on the family size and circumstances, be willing to help with the mundane funeral planning tasks like proofing the obituary and choosing a casket. No one wants to go to the funeral home alone.
  • Offer to drive the bereaved on their errands.
  • Everyone has been to a funeral. What you know of grief is nothing like the person in front of you. Remember this. Don’t talk about yourself.
  • Know that you may be the only person the bereaved will see that day. Listen to them. Don’t change the subject, even if it’s about death.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Mail fails me

My uncle Don passed away about two weeks ago. I didn’t know him well. In fact, I didn’t even know he existed until I was 18. He fell back into obscurity until January of 2003 when my grandfather died, but he’s been in my mind and my heart since then.

Uncle Don was married to my Aunt Kay, one of my grandfather’s sisters. Aunt Kay didn’t get along well with Aunts Bernice and Vera, but her relationship with my grandmother failed in a whole new way. Mom never knew Kay’s children, her cousins, when she was growing up. They met about a year and a half ago.

Aunt Kay and Uncle Don appeared for the first time in my life at my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party. They were invited, but they did not have reserved seats at the family tables. Photos later revealed that the whole family was wearing black to this gathering. Knowing my grandparents’ marriage, it’s fitting.

When my grandfather died in January 2003, his remaining siblings, my Great-Aunts Bernice and Kay, both came. Aunt Kay and Uncle Don were not invited to the wake at my grandmother’s. My cousins, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, and cousin-once-removed all gathered with my immediate family, Hope and Brooke included, at the family home. There was sausage. There was beer. There was a cheese and vegetable tray. There were kolaches. There was slivovitz--which, for the record, actually does taste like gasoline. There were hilarity, sadness, uncomfortable silence, and (in the corner of the house) brutal honesty. My mother took a long pull in on a cigarette while her cousin Teri asked, “But they were never abusive or anything, right?”

“Oh, yes. They were. No doubt about it.” Deadpan.

In the months that followed, Mom reconnected with her Aunt Kay, the quiet and gentle woman who was nothing short of exiled from the family. Uncle Don had had a stroke a year or so back, and Kay was his primary caregiver. Their daughter Barbara lived with them and helped Kay out when she wasn’t working. Aunt Kay and Barbara made the five hour trek out to see Mom a month or so after her father died. They brought a nut roll, a recipe from my Slovakian great-grandmother, that requires one whole day and a five-foot long kitchen table. They talked about my grandmother and how she failed to nurture relationships.

“When I went to see you when you were a baby, I could tell, I knew from the way your mother looked at you,” Kay had said, “that she didn’t really love you.”

Barbara interrupted in the hope of correcting her mother’s story. “Mom, it sounds like you said that--”

And Mom and Kay interrupted her. “I know.” “I did.”

Mom felt validated. She always knew in the back of her mind that her mother didn’t really love her, that her heart wasn’t in the right place, wasn’t designed to be her mother. The fact is that my grandmother never cared much for my mother, and while my mother eventually came to a place of peace, I never have. I can’t forgive her. Forgiveness means accepting an apology with no strings attached. There’s never been any apology, and I can’t imagine a world where there would be one from her.

Aunt Kay took up residence in Mom’s heart. They bonded. Mom finally got to know her cousins. They were a happy, peaceful family. They loved each other, and I know that Aunt Kay gave my mother her love.

When Mom died, Uncle Don needed constant care, and Aunt Kay couldn’t make it out for the funeral. No one blamed her. We missed her. But I knew that I wanted to be there when Uncle Don died because my mother would want to be there. It wasn’t a sense of familial obligation, it was personal obligation. I wanted it. Dad wanted it, too.

Uncle Don’s funeral was on a Wednesday. I had Chinese class and a big deadline at work. I didn’t go with my dad. He enjoyed his time with Kay and her family. I wish I had been there.

I’ll make the trip out there to see them one of these days. I know I should do it sooner rather than later. I need to thank them for the love they gave my mother, for filling in that place in her life. My mother’s familial turmoil always affected me greatly, and Aunt Kay brought a peace to Mom and to me. I wrote something like this in a card to them, but it needs to be said in person. My gratitude can’t really be mailed.

Gay Marriage Poll

Vote here

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Chinese class is kicking my ass

So, I decided to share some new pictures. This is what I see to the WSW when I look out my window at work. We're caught up in a battle about who is responsible for washing the windows: my employer or the company that leases us this space. Nothing has been done about it, and I think my plants are suffering as a result.

This is something that came up a few weeks ago, went dormant, and has since risen with fury. I'm going to knit it. It's a frog.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

For Amy

Please keep your thoughts and prayers today focused on my friend Amy. Her mother died this morning after suffering through breast cancer and diabetes.

Today, she starts a journey she never expected or wanted to take. She doesn’t know where it’s taking her, but she knows that she’s somewhere new.

Take care, Amy. We’re thinking of you and your family.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Area woman good at laundry, loved cleaning

In the last few days, I've accepted two well intentioned compliments that I realized I hadn't ever imagined receiving. I think we all hope that people will acknowledge our strength, character, intelligence, or talents, and I suppose it would be dishonest for me to leave out such things as nice outfits and new haircuts. We want someone to recognize at least one of these and comment on them.

But last week, someone told me that I'm the kind of person who would be good at laundry. I guess I am good at laundry, but the only thing I ever hope to hear about it is Brooke thanking me for washing her clothes, as I thank her for washing my dishes.

Saturday, I spent the day working on our living room. I put together some shelves, identified the studs, spaced the shelves, drilled, anchored, and spackled as necessary. Then I vacuumed, dust mopped, and Murphy's oil soaped the floor. I organized our CDs, put them on the new shelves, added the photos and pottery that had previously perched precariously on our extremely shallow mantle. I organized the piles and moved them into the appropriate places.

And when our friends came over that evening, one asked, "How do you keep this place so clean?" and although I responded, "By cleaning frantically every time someone comes over," I was really proud of my cleaning.

God help me if this is what I'm known for.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Request fulfilled


One cat

Another cat

Latest knitting project

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Two days since the debate

It was an evening like most Tuesday evenings tend to be for me. I left work, went home, had a snack, read the paper, and chatted with Brooke. We grabbed some old pots and pans that we had in storage in the basement and put them in a bag to take to church. We brought popping corn and peanut oil. We were getting ready for eating with our Tuesday night church dinner group and watching the debates with anyone who could stay. At the last moment, we grabbed some firewood to improve the ambiance of our church's basement lounge.

As usual, I drove. As usual, Brooke reminded me not to get so hostile about other drivers' inabilities to drive. As usual, we pulled onto the church's lawn to make room for other cars.

As unusual, she chirped, "It's Becky!" I turned and saw Becky standing by the my door, smiling and waving. Becky, a friend of Brooke from school who is a religious Jew, was not in the appropriate context, the current context being church dinner. So I was a little confused but adjusted when I finally kicked in my remaining social skills and got out of the car to say hello. We convinced Becky to stay for dinner and the debate, and we went inside to take off our coats and chat.

We met a friend of Tim, the church's student activities coordinator (or some such title), named Derek. We stood around and gabbed about all of the people Becky knows in common with the life sciences graduate students. We sat down and ate. We laughed, we talked, we got up to clean the dishes. Chris started washing. His spouse, Anne, started triaging dishes. I was rinsing. Brooke was drying. Derek was doling leftover pasta into Gladware.

This is when things got weird.

The conversation started about watching the vice-presidential debate that evening, and who was going to stay to see it. Somehow, someone made a negative remark about Bush—no surprise there—but Derek asked what we dislike about him. Annoyed, I uttered something about it starting with the Federal Marriage Amendment and going from there.

"So, are you in favor of gay marriage?"

Brooke put down her dishtowel and left the kitchen, but not before she muttered to Anne, "In fact, I highly recommend it."

The truth here is that Anne and Chris were my advocates in this discussion. I tried to argue against his Biblical references, but without having any warning about a Bible chat about homos, I wasn't in tiptop form. We did the usuals: Sodom and Gomorrah wasn't about gays, it was about gang rape; the reference in Romans is about fertility cults and orgies and isn't explicit that the sex along caused God to turn away from them; our understanding of human sexuality has changed so dramatically that these admonitions aren't relevant. Brooke came back in at some point, but it was shortly thereafter that Derek sighed and asked:

"What about abortion?"

(This is when things got weirder.)

Holy shit. Why on God's green earth would you ask that question of a bunch of people who just told you that gay marriage turned their boots gold? Boiled down, the conversation went something like this.

You like it when people kill babies?

We don't think that abortion should be criminalized.

But it's a baby!

We don't want women to suffer complications from illegal abortions.

Who cares about the women? I'm talking about babies!

It's a sad thing that women don't have the access to the information and contraceptives that they need and that abortion is sometimes the result.

But shouldn't people take responsibility instead of killing babies?

Let's have this conversation again when girls understand that they always have the right to say no and that boy understand they don't have the right to pressure girls.

sigh Then what about partial birth abortion?

There's no medical procedure by that name.

You do know what I mean?

Yes, it's called dilation and extraction.

It's killing babies!

Late term abortion is far more often for medical reasons than elective ones.

But that's a life! A baby!

Women deserve to make those decisions for themselves and with their doctors, if necessary.

I don't remember at what point the conversation ended. Maybe it was when I mentioned that if D&X is outlawed, women whose fetuses die in the womb after 14 weeks could well be barred from having that procedure, and it would be all Derek's fault that this woman would have to have labor induced so that she could push out her dead baby. Could be.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Debate the Great

The debate was kind of lame, truth be told, but two fantastic things came out of it.

  1. Dick Cheney suggested we all go to FactCheck.com when what he really meant was FactCheck.org, and the former rips Bush apart.
  2. FactCheck.org is a really good resource which also tells us about all of the ways that Cheney lied to us last night.

Yay! (more soon)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

If Freud and Rorschach had a baby, it would be this post.

Tell me three photos you want me to post on my blog, something of or from my life. I'll post them if I can.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Tasty painting

Sunday, October 03, 2004

More on loss

I've been flooded with life changing news lately. It seems like everyone has something serious going on, some of it good and some bad. The most immediately relevant to my life, of course, is Brock's arrival a couple of weeks ago. He's healthy, strong, and a fantastic snuggler. He sleeps soundest when curled into someone. His big sister adores him and likes to snuggle him, too. There's nothing sweeter than to watch my sister-in-law curl up on the couch, one child in each arm. All three of them are so supremely happy, and nothing can come between them.

Another new friend was born recently, the daughter of an old intern pastor. Mother and father are starting their last year at seminary, and this child is a blessing of their first year of marriage. Charissa was born on Friday, October 1, 2004. That same morning, as one couple prepared for their daughter's arrival, another couple discovered that their child had died. Almost at the end of the first trimester, almost to that point of universally accepted safety, they were no longer able to hear the heartbeat.

Their loss is palpable. She expects to have the necessary D&C on Monday or Tuesday, but she has already started spotting. This is a loss I cannot comprehend. To be the person in silent suffering. To hold the body of your dead child inside you. To walk and live as though your pregnancy never existed, as though there were no dreams wrapped up inside your womb.

And yet to know that no matter how far along in that first trimester, that line in the sand exists for a reason. To know that for hundreds of thousands of years, women did not consider themselves pregnant until quickening, until the baby moved on its own. To know now that you can be confident of your ability to conceive and gestate a child. To know that there is meaning in the things we go through, no matter how grim things seem.

Maybe I've been swamped with too much loss in the recent months, but every time I think of miscarriage, of any miscarriage, my body breaks into a cold sweat and stifles my breathing. Could I handle such a thing? Is there any value in trying to have a child? Children die all the time. Should I do that to myself?

It's getting colder, and it seems like snow is coming fast. Brooke scraped frost off the car this morning, and I curled deeper into my cocoon under the covers. Thanksgiving and Christmas are on my timeline at work. They're on my mental preparedness timeline, too. I'm getting through my first year of [Fill-In-The-Blank]__________ Without Mom. It's too close for this year to be winding down, and I can't deal with her being gone for such a long time.


I may have sold my first piece of writing. It's not set in stone, and I'm not confident how much I'd be paid for it if it were, but the creative director/designer told me that she likes it and is interested in using it. I'm floored.

This is the first piece I've ever submitted for such a thing, and in the days after her reply, I was undeniably giddy. At a loss for anything to do with my mind relative to this submission, I reread the piece, and now I hate it. I can't stand it. It's the biggest piece of drivel that's ever been set before me. It's choppy and disjointed. It sounds like the narrative of an eight year old, and that's not the voice I was going for. It's not even a voice that works for it. The piece isn't even interesting. I'm at a loss for what to do with it. I didn't and won't try to recall the submission. It's not necessary. If they like it and they want to publish it, then they can. Especially since they may even want to pay me, I'll let them keep it. I'm sure everyone I know will be kind enough to praise it gently, bless them.

I've been told this hating of one's submitted writing is perfectly normal, that everyone does it. I'm willing to accept that. I'm just not willing to accept that it makes that piece not horrible, that it's really a decent bit of writing. It's probably for the best that my opinion doesn't actually matter.

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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