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Bittersweet Sixteen

I think about Charlotte every single day. However, this time of year, I'm flooded with all kinds of memories as we commemorate the anniversary of her birth. This year feels like a bit of a milestone. Sixteen.  If cancer had not taken her life back in 2010, I have a feeling I would be planning a massive birthday celebration this year. 16 always feels like a landmark year in someone's life.  I have been thinking a great deal about the last birthday party we had for Charlotte in 2009. We didn't know it at the time, but we were halfway through her treatment journey. We had been through three major brain surgeries and a few rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. Treatments were not going well. In fact, right after her birthday, we would make the trip to Houston, Texas where we would settle in for about 10 weeks of proton beam radiation treatments and a new customized chemotherapy protocol. This was the unspoken "last chance option" to beat that aggressive brain tumor into
Recent posts

It's a (not quite) Jolly Holiday

I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting room a few weeks ago. While I waited, another patient came out into the reception area to make her next appointment. The receptionist offered a few dates, including one on a Saturday. The woman (I have no idea who she was; let's call her Maude) originally said yes to the Saturday date. Then the following conversation ensued:  Maude: Wait! Is that Mother's Day weekend?  Receptionist: Hmm. You know what? I'm not sure. When is Mother's Day?  Maude: You don't know?  Receptionist: (nervous laugh) Well, I guess I should know this.... Maude: Are you a mother?  Receptionist: No.  Maude: But...you have a mother, right? You should know these things!  At this point, I was incensed with "Maude". This woman knew nothing about the receptionist. She could have recently lost a child. She could have been struggling with infertility. She could have had a mother who recently died. Or she could have a strained or just very compli

Juggling Lessons

It has been almost one year since I announced to the greater world that I was diving into graduate school again to pursue my Ph.D . What has changed over the last year? When I announced that I was going back to school, we weren't sure if the "on-ground" components of the class would be in-person or virtual. For Fall and Spring, we had to stay virtual. This meant that even though I was in class one weekend per month, I was able to attend from the comfort of my spare room; no need to flex my work schedule or take the train to DC.  As classes started in September, I found a rhythm to my weekly load. Go to work (most days, 8:30-5ish), come home, get in a walk if I'm lucky, eat dinner with the family, chill for a bit. Then about 7 pm, I'd sit down at the computer to work on classwork. Some nights, it's reading (SO much reading). Other nights, it's posting to a discussion group or meeting up with colleagues for a group project, or outlining thoughts for an upcom

The Stages of Grief: COVID Edition

It's 2020. It's almost Christmas. We're still in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, we are experiencing what appears to be an incredible surge that is exerting tremendous pressure on our healthcare and social service system. The headlines are clear: we're not done with this madness and December 31, 2020 will not magically be the "end of it".  Earlier in the year, our family thought about whether we might be able to travel at this time. We thought that maybe the curve would be flat enough that we could take a few days away from home during the Christmas holidays. We realized that the pandemic would still be happening, but with the right protections and with prolific mask usage, we could get a much-needed change of scenery. During what is now (clearly) a delusional thought process, we booked a stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the week of December 19th. Spoiler alert: we canceled the trip almost two weeks ago.  Canceling this trip was not a tragedy. In fact, I

Remembering the Normal

Science tells us that human memory is faulty . We want to think that we will remember certain moments forever like they are encased in carbonite. In reality, we look back on events and retell our stories to friends and colleagues. The story always shifts a little in the process and by the time we have told the story 1000 times, it has changed. It's not (usually) an outright lie. It's just that our brain betrays us. Even our collective memories of major national events that are witnessed by millions of people can be faulty. One study suggests that up to 40% of people changed certain elements of their remembrances of 9/11 as time passed. Something to seriously consider as our recent national discussions about history have claimed the center stage and we continue to live in "unprecedented" times.  Side note: anybody else yearning for some precedented times again?    Fifteen years ago this week, Charlotte Jennie was born. I recounted a lot of her birth story on this

Life is short. Do all the things.

As I spend my 2nd Mother's Day without my mother and my 10th Mother's Day without my One of my favorite multi-generational pics of me, my mom, and Charlotte.  first-born, I'm probably more reflective than usual. I blame the burgeoning pandemic . I'm still struggling with survivor guilt and an irrational, imaginary pressure to be more productive than I should be in a time of stress. I try to balance managing the influx of information for both my mental health and my need to be well-informed. I'm managing a new household with kids learning from home, replacing rehearsals and school with online tutoring, drum lessons, and playdates; none of which, by the way, are adequate substitutions for the real thing.  I'm trying to embrace the new opportunity for more restful weekends (much needed) with my desire to still do as much as I can to be a force for good. I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes by E.B. White:  "I arise in the morning torn between a

Meditations on an Emergency

Nothing like a little pandemic to get me writing again, huh?  I have so many thoughts in my brain right now. A simple social media post didn't seem the right venue. So I have picked up the blog to get these thoughts on paper. Or digital paper, as it were.  Ever since this COVID-19 crisis began, I have been struggling with information overload. There is the desire to be informed and the potential to be overwhelmed by it all. There is the need to filter out truth from fiction. There is the need to distance ourselves, both physically and emotionally sometimes, from others. My anxiety brain often has trouble turning it all off, even in "normal" times. These are not normal times. Many wise people have pointed out that we are in a period of collective grief . Like any grief, the process cycles between despair, denial, bargaining, anger, and acceptance. Sometimes I feel all of those in one day. I think that one of the things I struggle with the most in all of this is wha