Monday, April 7, 2014

Eulogy ... Statement of Worth ... Tears of Loss ... At Least I Wrote Something

**I changed some names, some of which I've written about in this blog before.  I did not change Ken's name.**

Ken Carroll was a good man.

It sounds almost absurd to sum it up that simply, but I suspect that is how he viewed himself, what he aspired to.  He knew what his strengths were, was aware of his limitations, and he both loved and was loved by many.

And so I’ll say it again … Ken Carroll was a good man.

He was a skilled mechanic, working at a Dodge dealership for many years (and creating lasting memories of himself in their t-shirts).  I can’t tell you how many times Ken rode in a car with me and said, “Sounds like a tie rod” or “Those brakes!”  Ken’s hands bore the scars and stains of a lifetime spent working with cars, but this was generally a source of pride for him, as well it should have been.  He shared his knowledge freely with many, most notably his surrogate son Andy, although I am proud to say that I changed a tires and even installed brake pads with his assistance.

He was a gardener, having an innate feel for which part of a yard or a garden to grow what.  In typical Ken fashion, he never bragged about his crops but instead suggested you go check out the beans.  As you ate the last one because they were the best beans ever and you just couldn’t help yourself, he would grumble at you but you could tell from the look in his eye that he was proud of himself for both growing such epic beans and also for making someone he cared about happy.

He was a unique and irreplaceable friend.  Ken always listened, he never judged, he would give you a metaphorical kick in the ass if that’s what you needed (and he always knew if that’s what you needed), or a metaphorical hug if you were in that place.  He was a man of few words, but the words he spoke were beyond value. 

He was extremely intelligent, but he took pains to keep this on the down-low.  He spoke often of his grammar school education, meaning that he “knew nothing”, but you could tell by looking at him that he was aware that, for some, formal education is not the ideal path.  I know he was ridiculously proud of Andy’s degrees, and I believe that he was very proud that I was a teacher (despite making fun of me for it regularly) with a graduate degree, but he was content with his lot in life.  He knew he did not need a piece of paper to prove his worth.

Ken served his country in the military, worked a job needing extreme precision for many years, and taught much to many people.  He shared his skills as a mechanic and his knowledge of gardening.  He shared his love of music and was open to music from others, such as “The 200-Year-Old Alcoholic”.  His sense of humor was unique, and his laugh, often accompanied by hand-clapping, was contagious.

I call Ken my “third father” because he showed me a lot about the kind of person I want to be.  I am kinder and more patient than I would have been had I never known Ken.  I find the value in simple things that I never would have noticed otherwise.  On a very personal level, Ken is the first person I shared the most traumatic event of my life with, and he told no one.  He did not judge.  He just asked if I wanted to play a game of cards and have a beer.

I will always picture Ken with a can of Bud in a sleeve to keep it cold and a circle of cherry Skoal in the front pocket of the dark blue t-shirt he must have had a hundred of.  He will always be outside in my memory, loving the simple things and teaching those of us who knew him well to take the time to smell the roses.  He could be a cantankerous grouch, but Kenneth P. Carroll had a heart of gold. 

The lessons he taught live on in Andy’s kids.  They live on in my daughters.  They live on in the many and varied lives he touched.  Love is not conditional, it’s not always easy, and it certainly doesn’t have to be in-your-face (I’m pretty sure I never told Ken that I love him … mostly because I never had to).  When people raise their children, they carry—both consciously and sub-consciously—the influences they had.  Thanks to the values Ken instilled in Andy, in me, and in many others, the idea of simple love will live on.  That is a gift without monetary value, and one I will cherish forever

Ken, I hope you’re having a Bud and a chew up in heaven right now … and you can stop laughing at me for crying as I type this any time, you jerk!

I love you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Legalization of Marijuana: The Philosophy is Different Than What People Think ...

I can't seem to get away from the discussion on legalizing marijuana.  It's on the news, it's on Facebook, it's in casual conversations.  Everyone seems to want to weigh in on this one, yet I can't fully understand why.  I've come to the conclusion that the only people who are going to win on this one are the sociologists.

Realistically, marijuana is less harmful than either alcohol or tobacco, both of which are legal (if heavily regulated).  Using the "it's dangerous" argument is just illogical, unless you're willing to explore making booze and butts illegal.  That whole "gateway drug" theory has long since been disproven.  

So why is it such a big deal?

My theory is that people just like to have something to complain about.  

No, seriously, hear me out.  

I think the idea that pot is this big, bad drug has been pretty much taken off the table.  According to an article I read on WMUR this morning, 60% of New Hampshire taxpayers are in favor of "legal, taxable marijuana sold by licensed stores for recreational use".

The barriers have been eroding for some time, and the legalization of medical marijuana has effectively shown that it's not really that big a deal.

True story ... a man was dying of lung cancer, and chemotherapy was wreaking havoc on his appetite.  His wife was told by the doctor that marijuana therapy would probably help him gain weight, but unfortunately it was illegal in New Hampshire.  His wife was tearfully sharing this with her daughters, and it was quickly pointed out to her that they could run over to UNH and have marijuana for him in about twenty minutes.

So, yeah, it has been moving slowly toward legalization.  The stigma has largely disappeared.  Pot smoking is no longer associated with certain negative stereotypes.

And yet the hold up continues.

Right now, the vocal majority are united in the whole "Let's legalize it" cry.  People from all walks of life are joined against the government, either by speaking out publicly or through regular tokes in the privacy of their homes.  These voices run the gamut of rich and poor, of educated and uneducated, of urban and rural.  In the battle against the government vis a vis legalization of pot, there is a strange equality that has come forth.

As soon as pot is legal for recreational use (and make no mistake, it will be), that unity is going to crumble.

Watching this unfold is a sociologist's dream, really ...

Republicans are going to start slamming Democrats about how this is just one more thing the government is trying to control.  Democrats are going to try to make pot taxes exorbitantly high to finance some sort of social issue du jour.  The wealthy are going to complain about taxes on pot.  The poor are going to complain about taxes on pot.

The same people that sell untaxed cigarettes and alcohol are going to get in on the action afforded by marijuana.  Cops are going to be paid off to overlook the difference between the legal ounce and possession of two or three ounces.  Crooked politicians are going to finance underground pot farms and receive kickbacks from illegal sales.

It's going to be a giant clusterfuck, in other words.

This sounds awful, but I am kind of looking forward to it, just because it will be interesting.  

I have no vested interest in marijuana being legal.  I mean, my own personal relationship with cannabis has ended; high school and college were ages ago.  I feel like it should be legal because there is no compelling reason for it not to be, but it doesn't really matter that much to me.  The truth is, if I wanted to get my hands on pot, it would be easy; however, if pot was legal, I would have no interest in buying any.  That ship has sailed for me.  When I am at social gatherings when bowls are passed, I choose to say no, yet I have no issue with those that choose to say yes.  (This is an awkward paragraph, yet I feel like it needs to be included)     

I am reminded of that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for."  I think, in the case of legalization of pot, it's going to lead to another saying ... "May you live in interesting times." 

I think we will be.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Hesitating Sharing of the Joy"...or "The Fragility of Life"...or "How I Almost Died Giving Birth": Not Your Typical Birth Story

I almost died giving birth to my daughter Gabrielle on December 16th.  

There, now I've said it.

When my other daughters were born, I shared every detail.  I am a compulsive "over-sharer" on Facebook.  I have had this blog (and mostly written regularly) since 2009.  I am not one to keep my mouth shut (or, I guess it'd be keep my computer keys clickless or something).

But I have been very reluctant to talk about that day despite people asking (and being a bit bewildered by my recalcitrance, I suspect) because frankly I have never been more scared in my life.  Also, it feels wrong to talk about a day of such great joy as being terrible and scary.

Virtually all new mothers have that "first pic", the one where they are holding their baby for the first time.  I have one, too.  

The difference is that Gabrielle had been born some time before this picture was actually taken.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that my husband captured this moment--the first one of my newborn and I--just after her second bath.

I've been struggling with how to write this piece, grappling with whether I should do a play-by-play of Gab's birth or just focus on the strange and intense feelings the extremes of that day brought forward in me, which is of course the philosophical bend that I try to find in everything that happens.

Forgive me if I go too far one way or the other ...

My water broke around 2:30 a.m., and we headed to the hospital pretty quickly as it was almost an hour away and we already knew that I would need to have IV antibiotics during delivery.

The doctor decided to start pitocin right away because I was only 2 centimeters dilated.  I was very upfront about wanting an epidural as soon as possible; this was my third go-round with childbirth, after all, and I saw no reason to suffer agonizing pain needlessly.

The epidural started off okay, with the cold wash, the burning lidocaine, and the need to stay completely still. However, it started to hurt as the anesthesiologist moved the needle then the catheter around. A lot! She seemed to think I was being something of a drama queen as I got lectured on the difference between pain and pressure. I didn't care as long as the contractions stopped hurting.

All of a sudden, my bottom felt ridiculously hot, I couldn't move my feet, and my blood pressure started dropping. The anesthesiologist seemed to think I wasn't trying hard enough to move my feet at first, but I was too scared to be angry as my blood pressure continued to plummet...and Gabrielle's started to follow. I got dizzy and faint and started throwing up with an oxygen mask hooked onto my was terrible.

The scariest part was that the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and my OB were clearly alarmed. I later learned, of course, that my blood pressure had dropped dangerously, had nearly disappeared for a moment or three, that I'm very lucky that ephedrine exists.  

They restarted the pitocin, and I was very quickly in agony.  If you've ever given birth, you know what "it's time to start pushing pain" feels like, and that's what I was feeling.  When the OB checked and I was only at 4 centimeters, I knew something was going on.  4 centimeters just didn't mesh with the frequency and intensity of my contractions, so she did a quick ultrasound. Turns out Gabrielle was facing outward (called "sunny side up" on birth boards), which explained the pain and the lack of quick progress.  (Not to put too fine a point on it, but the back of a head slides down the birth canal a lot more smoothly than a face)

I was kind of at the end of my rope (okay, I was about to scream in pain, with tons of dilating still ahead of me), so the OB said the only option for pain management was reattempting the epidural. Because of the epidural/blood pressure debacle, they did not want to give me narcotic pain medicine.  

The cause of the drama with the first epidural attempt was a bolus, and I was assured that it was incredibly rare and the odds of it happening again were astronomical.  In other words, there's no way I'd have another screwy reaction to an epidural.

Until it happened again...same dizziness, same blood pressure drop, same vomiting into the oxygen, and same fear.

When the OB reluctantly said a C-section was becoming increasingly likely, I was glad. I just wanted it over and the pain and fear to be gone.

This was my first C-section after having two pretty much uneventful vaginal births with my other two daughters. It was scary, to say the least. I was still freaking out over the two epidural attempts, and trusting that there would be no to minimal pain was hard to believe considering the way everything seemed to be going wrong.

They started the C-section, and my husband sat next to me and was very reassuring. I was dizzy and dozy from the medicine, and then my blood pressure dropped yet again and I had yet another round of puking into the oxygen mask.

It was only then that they realized that Gabrielle's shoulder was tightly lodged in my pelvic bone.  They could not get her out for awhile, and finally they had to get very aggressive.  As a result, my uterine wall tore and the OB had to call for backup and order blood for a transfusion...and everyone was very scared again, which of course freaked me out all over again.  I lost a lot of blood, and there was some concern that parts of my urinary system had been damaged.
Once Gabrielle was delivered, she was perfectly fine.  I heard her cry, and I wanted to see her more than anything, but they took her away while they tried to figure out how to solve the problem of me.  They called my husband over and gave Gabrielle to him.  He cut the cord, and they were ushered into a small room where they got to bond and hang out while my blood loss was figured out and remedied and I was stitched up.
It was only later that it occurred to me how serious the situation was as they literally left my husband alone with a newborn baby for an extended period of time.

This was over three weeks ago, and here is my beautiful baby next to me as I write this.

Trying to reconcile this beautiful miracle with the abject terror of that day is just ... well, difficult.  I feel like I should just forget it, get over it, say, "Well, that was interesting, guess she's going to be the kind of kid that keeps me on my toes", but I'm finding that it's not that easy.  

There is absolutely no connection between Gabrielle Rose, my surprise miracle baby, and the terrible events of that day.  But the events are still in my mind.  I have nightmares pretty much every night.  They just aren't connected to the baby.

Which I realize is a very good thing. 

What I can't figure out is where that space is.  Forgive me, I am having a very hard time articulating this, even to myself.  Basically, those hours of labor culminating in the C-section are lost in the Twilight Zone or something.  As soon as it was over, as soon as Gabrielle was okay and then I was okay, the fact that I almost died, almost disappeared from this world, could easily have left my other two daughters motherless ... it is just gone.  Except it's not.

I have these pics of my husband and older daughters with the baby.  We are all very happy.  It's a joyous occasion.  (And I am being 100% serious and non-sarcastic).

 Is it just that I have a better understanding of the fragility of life now?  Am I just struggling to get over an experience that was traumatic and suffering guilt because who wants to say, "The day my daughter was born was one of the scariest days of my life"?  

You see, the bottom line is that I was forced to gain a sudden awareness of how often that "almost" happens.  I think about my oldest daughter driving home from work late at night and just missing a tragic encounter with a drunk driver, my sweet 9-year-old getting into a car with a murderer, my husband getting attacked while walking downtown, and the zillions of other potential disasters the people I love encounter on a daily basis.

It's a scary world we live in, on so very many levels.

But I am so very, very fortunate to have this <3 div="">

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

So I Had a Baby December 16

I guess that's the easiest way to get back into writing this blog ... her birth was pretty intense and traumatic, but she is beautiful and amazing and already I can't imagine life without her.

Here she is, Miss Gabrielle...

And the first post-Gabrielle post will hopefully be coming tomorrow ... 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Upcoming Nuptials

So I'm getting married on Saturday.

It has come up so quickly. There is so much to do (add moving and going on a weeklong jaunt to NYC for the latest chapter in Belle's acting/modeling career), and I'm kind of overwhelmed.

Excited, though. Very excited. Henry is truly one of the good ones, and this new chapter of life looks to be very full :-)

Okay, was just seeing if I could blog from my iPad while drinking coffee. Turns out I can :-)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Facebook Reverting Adults Back to Eighth Graders?

I am a Facebook addict.  I really am.  I post updates about the weather, random quotes (primarily from famous drunk Irishmen), and pictures that nobody cares about but me.

I mean, does anyone really want to see either Belle's modeling pics or her "Beaver Face"?

She does clean up well, no ;-)?

But seriously, one of my FB friends posted last night: "Age does not define whether you are an adult.  Your actions do.  Some 'adults' are so fuc*ing childish", and I had an epiphany.

Facebook has made it so much easier for adults to act like children ... for teens to bully each other ... for cruelty to perpetuate.

How often do you hear, "Well, so-and-so said this about Joe Blow on FB.  The post isn't there?  Well, it was.  They must have taken it down so there's no proof."

No proof?  What is this, a court of freaking law?  It's a social networking site!

So I commented to my FB friend, "Amen!!!! And FB has really exacerbated this...I am soooooo amused by adults 'punishing' each other by unfriending.  It's like being back in eighth grade."

Her response?  "Or people who can't talk like grown ups, instead choosing to rant about someone on that person's FB and then delete and/or block them.  THEN do this so  many freaking times they have to keep making new FB pages with different versions of their name because they've pissed off too many people and can't keep track of who they've deleted, blocked, or ranted to.  Yup.  Very adult."

All of which got me thinking how lucky I am to have avoided that degree of drama.

My own personal experience with this is tied to one person (well, two, I guess...three if you want to count my fiance, who probably set the wheel in motion), and while part of me would love to rant about his transgressions, both emotionally abusive through Facebook and physically abusive in reality, I try to be better.

Suffice it to say that when someone should be on the post office wall for deadbeats, somehow has the money to travel all over the place virtually every weekend (and document said travels on Facebook, which is one of the rudest and nastiest in-your-faces I can imagine) and buy sweet new cars (with pictures proudly posted when, as a result of said deadbeatery, his child is riding in a car with 250,000 miles on it), and post on FB pictures of a child he chooses not to see for month-long stretches at a time as though he were there and involved instead of yoinking pics from someone else's wall, it is pretty deplorable.

And yet nobody said ANYTHING about those transgressions.  He totally got away with being an irresponsible, self-centered douchebag.  Were these things frustrating?  Beyond belief.  But when you're an adult, you take the high road.  (And lest you think, as you're reading this, "Well, she's kind of doing what she claims to hate", please know that I am leaving out a million things and keeping this very general).

My fiance Henry, who considers the little girl in question the absolute light of his life, snapped over the combination of his princess' distress that "Daddy loves his girlfriend more than he loves me" because he chose to spend Father's Day with his girlfriend over his daughter and the far more disturbing FB post that he and his girlfriend went out for "Father's Day brunch" together (a fact that we made sure to keep from a little girl who would have been either more devastated).

Anyway, Henry made a comment on a Facebook post that was probably not particularly mature but was 100% accurate.  And was promptly unfriended, blocked, and otherwise wiped from the warped existence of an utterly insane world.

Which I can understand.  I mean, who wants to be called out publicly on his bad behavior?  It doesn't matter if it's true (in fact, it might even be worse, because ... well, I do wonder how some people sleep at night), it's probably humiliating to have the world potentially know just how badly you suck, particularly when you try to put up this professional facade which is a total joke to anyone that knows you.

Oops, I'm starting to cross that maturity line there ...  Focus!

What I do not understand, however, is why I was likewise unfriended, blocked, and otherwise wiped from the warped existence of an utterly insane world.  I did not make the comment.  I have always been there for this SOB, no matter what he's done to me, and I've never been snarky about the amount of money he spends on himself and his girlfriend even when I've had to roll quarters (and occasionally dimes and nickels) to have enough gas money to get to work because he is not paying child support.  

Okay, that was a little snarky.  God's honest truth, but still snarky.

The thing is, it's no great loss.  Frankly, the best thing he could do for his child is drop dead; he has lied to her and hurt her enough for a hundred lifetimes.  She is completely done with him, and forcing her to call him on the phone each night is an exercise in torture for both of us.  But, as they say, there is no luck like an alcoholic's luck, and so the nightmare will probably be continuing for the forseeable future.

It's the way it was done--"Henry pissed me off, so I'm going to delete YOU from Facebook"--that really hurt my feelings and, yeah, made me pretty angry.  Of course, it epitomizes this twit's M.O. and approach to life, so I guess there's that ...

One other thing that totally cracked me up is that I guess I'm in good company.

A friend who has managed to avoid his magic delete button told me the funniest story (yes, I'm aware of what I'm doing here ... consider it driving the point home).  He posted a quote from John Nash talking about how mathematicians are prone to "maniacal characteristics, delirium, and symptoms of schizophrenia".  One of his FB friends put "So are drunks!!!!!!"  The comment was removed...and so was the friend.

Some people need to play God and control their warped realities, I guess ...

Which brings this back to Facebook.  Never before have we had that degree of power over who our "friends" are, what we choose to publicize, and how we can show up on other people's pages via comments or pictures.  It's kind of scary ...

And it would be nice if people could act like adults on Facebook.  Of course, it would be nice if people could act like adults in reality, but this is a platform that unfortunately reinforces the opposite.

I love Facebook because I enjoy seeing what my friends are doing.  I like making plans through an outlet that ensures nobody is excluded because it's ...  you know, public.  I love getting to see pictures of my nephews and jokes and interesting articles.  And I adore hearing the latest quotes from my nephew in Baltimore, who is possibly the only person in the world more naturally funny than Belle.  

I try to avoid drama.  I see an awful lot of it, though, in my news feed, and it makes me feel uneasy.

In my world, I try to be nice to everybody.  I try to believe the best in others, and I constantly tell myself that their intentions are just being misconstrued.  I don't expect everyone to feel this way or try to live this way or whatever, but it's a nice aspiration.

And I truly believe that Facebook makes this more difficult.  The immediacy with which you can vent and complain and act without thinking through the ramifications is scary.  The ability for teenagers (and yeah, probably adults) to go on someone else's account and wreak havoc is even more frightening.

So what do you think?  Is Facebook (and, to a slightly lesser extent--unless you're a celebrity--Twitter) lowering the maturity level of mankind?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Jeopardy" and my Mother

When my ex-husband's insane abusive alcoholic tendencies destroyed any semblance of financial security, my daughters and I were forced to move in with my mother. She was generous enough to take us in and give 100% of her time and energy to making our transition back to life as easy as possible for all of us.

She will never know how much I appreciate it, how grateful I am, and how much I love and admire her.

As our time with her is quickly drawing to a close and we're getting ready to move to our new home (and, you know, that getting married thing), I find that I'm cherishing every second with my mother.

We watch "Jeopardy" together every night. I find myself tearing up at the very theme music; the slightest glimpse of Alex Trebek chokes me up.

We've added "Wheel of Fortune" to our evening TV date tonight.

I'm writing this so I don't cry...