Philosophy: Not so useless after all.

Growing up notions of philosophy were anathema to me. I don’t recall hearing the word brought up in conversation at home, in school, or even in my friends’ homes. A premise of thought was not truly introduced to me until I was 29 and beginning my venture of stay at home mommydom; ethical and moral notions were introduced a mere couple years before during my undergraduate work. For all intents and purposes, my upbringing was built upon the simple notion that you do what you’re told. In hindsight the tasks required of me as a child sometimes made sense, but seldom were reasons beyond “you have to” and “because that’s the way it is/what I said” given. The nature of these tasks was not up for discussion or rationale.

Being in the school system bred little more thought; a series of tasks laid out before me (despite being in “gifted” programs). It seems to me now, in reflection, that critical thought has almost always been abhorrent. Thank goodness for Socrates, but his genius method had nothing to do with my experience of pre-collegiate formal education. My mind, beyond the spinning and whirring that occurred in the process of memorizing copious bits of information, lay asleep. The only exception being the hormone excess where drama was the name of the inescapable game from middle school on.

Abstract notions, the ability to comprehend, explain, and discuss them: These were taught in the nature of giving a busy mind something to do. But to question? To ascertain the premise of a thought? Heck, even discuss what a premise was? These things were sadly not featured in my life until I took an Intro to Philosophy class about six years ago. It seems odd to come to something that intuitively should be so part of life and learning at such a late date. And I have no explanation for it beyond this steadfast belief by those around me that this simply is the way it’s supposed to be.

It was only natural then that I became religious about politics and believed in democracy, that the choices of most people in a vocal society were inevitably right and good while the minority was sadly never even thought of. This is not to say that I felt whoever comprised the minority of voters deserved to be ruled by decisions of the majority, but truly that it was not encouraged to even think of them. That population simply did not exist for me. Education had many failings, but this one, I think, is perhaps the most damaging. It made an entire group of individuals disappear from thought.

Philosophy, the quest for it or even the practice of it, is what leads to questions about the ramifications of empowering one group of individuals who happen to agree, simply because its bigger, over a smaller group. That this echoes of the days of Jim Crow and pre-sufferage should not be discarded automatically due to superficial differences, but explored because of the almost identical underlying premise: A group matters because we, the majority, say it does and another doesn’t matter because we say it doesn’t.

While the issue of racism and prejudice are not viewed in the same light as democracy the philosophical point remains. Jim Crow laws stood in effect because of popularity; same goes with denying women the right to vote. Conversely, each of these legally institutionalized bits of prejudice were overturned due to the outrage of the populace. The categories into which people were handily sorted and marginalized matters not at all. In the examples I gave it was because of the color of one’s skin or gender, presently it’s about income, and tomorrow could be hair color or what hand you use to write with. The REASON for second hand status of rights is always the same: a powerful group of individuals said so. Color, religion, gender, sexual orientation – is any one of these things more important than another? More horrifying to categorize and cast people aside over? No. Why would it? All involve pre-judgment and none required due process of law to usurp or deny rights. It required a majority and, in some cases, merely a very vocal and politically connected minority.

The conclusion I came to as a result of applying philosophy was that a majority should never hold sway over a minority. That democracy was flawed at its premise. Being even a small part of 51% of any given population does not make “right”, merely “might”. Despite these lessons in history the notion of democracy can still hold a certain appeal so long as the underlying premise, the majority is right/gets what it wants, is overlooked. As is so often the case, the philosophical journey is no more complex than asking what something is, how it works, and that ever perplexing why. Without philosophy and the questions it espouses it is easy to go along with simple statements of presumed fact: That democracy allows people to have a voice. With it there is ease in understanding that democracy allows only some people a voice. One doesn’t even need to understand philosophy in all her pretentious glory to shed a bit of light on any given subject – just skepticism.

Looking back it is easy to see that a system of education such as the one I experienced was not about skepticism or philosophy, but about espousing a certain belief set: democracy – good, people who get hurt by democratic decision – non-existent. I do not think for one instant that these beliefs were the end goal of a quite overburdened system. Belief, however, was. There are times, places, and even people wherein faith is a good exercise. However, if anyone demands it, whether this be a system or person, and denies you the answers to the questions or even the right to ask them, they more than likely do not warrant faith. Just a touch more skepticism and its unceasing mistress philosophy.


Parenthood As Education

In my misguided notions of being a parent there was this underlying belief that I had submitted to my children. That my investment in myself had been reformed and translated to demonstrate the importance of parenting my children; not in being their authority, but their loving care provider and guide into autonomy. Each time I wanted to scream and took a deep breath I recalled that this was what it was all about. That I. Was. Doing. IT.

I was a parent, and a not so bad one at that. Every choice was being made based upon thoughts of how my child, now children, is and what the needs were. Then I had this horrifying moment not one day before my son was a little over four years old (did I mention he’s just a little over four now?) when I realized: I haven’t fully submitted. I categorized. I prioritized. I took who I am, shoved her in a little box and told her she could only come out to play on special occasions. My writing was solidly focused on NOT discussing my life as a parent and I felt this separation was a continuation of a necessary divide.

The Mom my kids see is not all that I am, I daresay they don’t even get a real hint of it, instead they get the often anal retentive (okay that part is completely, and somewhat apologetically, true), but still somewhat fun entirely too verbose me. And meanwhile the Writer Mom forgoes acknowledgment even in my own head. Boundaries are vital in any healthy relationship, and so certain bits of not G rated knowledge is reasonable to withhold, but I am feeling more and more like a counterfeit these days.

My oldest has no idea that I’m a passionate person unless by passionate you mean “the crazy lady who yells when I tackle the cats”. And he GETS passion – in his own way. He understands the love and dedication of wanting to do something like drawing, sculpting, or listening to stories. I still seem bent on denying him a more real version of me. There are justifications galore that I give voice to in my head, but even that gets repressed on such a level that I do not give it a chance to be heard. Not really. As wretched as it is, the reason I find myself so wantonly addicted to ye ole’ social network is because the outspoken and forthright adult can get her time out in public.

Let me be clear: I do not regret being a mother. I do not regret being a stay at home mom (except on some days). I do not regret being a homeschooling mother. I regret that I am not happy all the time in these choices. That I do not LOVE being all these things all the time. That I am not communicating how best to be happy to my children. How to be genuine NO MATTER WHAT.

And here comes that word again. That word many of us in the United States have learned to be abhorrent when it comes to parenting. Submission. I have not submitted. I surrendered. I gave up on myself in my attempt at being a “good enough” parent. In so doing I have been the kind of parent I never wanted to be. Permissive, not completely engaged, short tempered (not always, but even if I heard “I don’t wanna” for five hours straight before snapping “I don’t wanna hear ‘I don’t wanna’ anymore!!!” it feels like I lost a promise to myself, to my kids), and even sometimes a bit embittered. My personality is a fierce one and if you were to meet my son you’d say the same about him, but more often than not the gentility which IS part of my make-up (stop laughing) is lost on all but the wee one.

This all comes down to self-acceptance. To understanding and re-evaluating what I think is valuable. Sadly, this led me to the paralyzing realization that I’ve always suffered just here. Here at this intersection of almost acceptance and self derision was a missing arrow telling me where self-love was. How does one teach something to a child when they don’t know it for themselves? Some believe formal education can solve all the ills, that perhaps a psychology class or five would leave me capable of this (did I mention I have a BA in psychology and was invited to their honors reception? Twice?), but for me the answer is obvious: kids learn the most important lessons in life through action and experience. Many things can be taught, but love? It is felt. Self love? That comes from BEING loved regardless of what is happening in the entire insane universe. And it’s gift is a security one may take wherever they choose to wander. It can be the comfort one needs when those feeling out of place moments occur.

None of this can happen without submission. True submission. Not just to the kids, although that really helps, but submission to one’s self. Submitting to those moments of being raw. To the why’s and what for’s of shame, guilt, betrayal, and unbelievable hurt. Those are the places where one can feel the most alone, the most deserted and unloved. And it’s where every person needs it the most. For me, this is the space that becomes more occupied the more I deny it; my emotional street address. It’s the place I act from as a parent which, coincidentally enough, is the most on the spot, under the microscope occupation one can have. [Ever accidentally swear near a talking toddler? Then you totally know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t done that yet – give it a try. ]

And here is the light: My children are a gift to me. They are reminders of love, of gentleness, that kisses (even of them) can fix just about everything. They’re also sound reminders of what I should never tolerate being done to me if for no other reason than because I don’t want them to learn it’s healthy or acceptable for them to live with. Each set of blue eyes I look into every day is a call to be more courageous and to teach them the self-love it took me more than thirty years to understand I didn’t have. For them I can do that, for me – I didn’t even realize I had been missing something.

And so it comes to this…

In the past I’ve done only a few philosophical posts betwixt the literary or writerly *cough* posts, but now I am finding myself longing for conversation of just about anything.  There are many excellent blogs out there that dedicate themselves to the discussion of industry and writing technique/ideas  – this isn’t one of them.  Truly, I like READING those blogs, but I don’t enjoy writing them.  It feels quite like pulling teeth.  Since I prefer to keep all my teeth where they are (or perhaps a slightly new location should I endeavor to get braces again in the future) I decided I should step away from even the pressure of doing so.  As a result it seems more prudent to me that I simply WRITE and the best way for me to do this is to write about anything/everything that I am interested in.

It’s just like Heinlein said:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

For those who have checked out my other blog (also long neglected) I will still be keeping women’s health/birth stuff over there as well as some other interesting (hopefully) tidbits about the medical industry and legislation that impacts this.  This one is now going to be home to all the meanderings and topics that intrigue me and, perhaps, will be slightly controversial.  With any luck all of you, yes – YOU, will want to come by and share your views still.  At least I hope you do.  Here’s to what looks to be a very interesting adventure.  Cheers, folks!

Celiac Disease

It sounds really scary, doesn’t it?  Anything with disease in it is seems to cause heart palpitations, perhaps a twitch of the eye, or shoulders to tense.  Celiac Disease caused no less of a reaction in me (except for the eye twitch – those are reserved for when my son hits this really loud and really high pitch).  Admittedly, now that I know more it still strikes a bit of fear in me.

The nuts and bolts of it are this: Celiac Disease is a symptom and an autoimmune disease.  It is literally defined by villous atrophy.  Those small little things in your small intestine that help you absorb nutrients?  Well, they’re blunted in someone with celiac’s and thereby hinders their ability to be healthy by causing malnourishment.  In some patients celiac presents its self as a bit of iron deficient anemia and perhaps, as is the case with my son, what is called a failure to thrive (he didn’t gain much weight that year).  It sounds so simple; such a very undramatic thing.  In reality it is sneaky, persistent, and destructive.

The reason this isn’t merely a case of gluten intolerance (and I don’t mean that as a way of diminishing that issue – a dear friend of mine has it and chronic pain is no walk in the park), but literally a level of intolerance that is more akin to actual allergy.  The reason it is categorized as an autoimmune disease is because of what happens when the person with celiac’s eats gluten.  The enzyme that our bodies produce in order to fix our intestines is called tissue transglutaminase and in people with celiac’s their bodies produce antibodies to destroy it as the gluten actually destroys the villi.  This is why a blood test looking for these antibodies is so vital in diagnosis (and, honestly, why a small intestine biopsy is not necessary).  In many cases physicians will also do tests called the IgA and/or IgG test to see what other antibodies the body is producing.

All of these things disappear when gluten is no longer present in the individual’s diet.  So much so that if they had stopped eating gluten in the weeks before these tests were done they more than likely would show a negative result.  This is possibly why so many physicians still opt for the small intestinal biopsy (might also be because it’s a rather costly little test despite the fact that it still boils down to getting just the right samples for a positive result to be shown; minimal damage/early stages makes it that much harder to get the “right” samples) for a definitive diagnosis.  Damage done to the intestines, depending upon the duration of gluten ingesting as well as age at diagnosis, can be reversible.  However, remaining gluten free is absolutely imperative for a patient with celiac’s.

When a person’s body can not handle gluten the risk of colon cancer, small intestinal adenocarcenoma are both increased should the individual continue to ingest it.

Now, the fun part.  The elimination of gluten is not merely getting rid of wheat or obvious wheat byproducts such as flour, but also avoiding spelt, barley, rye, kamut, triticale, malts, and according to one source couscous.  This also means any derivative of the above.  Sweeteners and thickeners are both very suspect until you know their origin.   Also, beware of vitamins as many of them are contaminated by or contain wheat (among other allergens).  Same goes for dried fruit.

I’ll save my longer rant for another time, but since going gluten free I must say this:  The US has massive issues with processed foods and cross-contamination.  Needless to say this is a huge adjustment for my family and, writing wise, has taken up much of my writing time.  It is no small thing to become in the know about all this stuff never mind trying to find a way of maintaining a balanced diet.  What I wish I knew before all this was how to read a nutrition label.  Not exactly the fun type of reading I usually prefer.

Anyone else have to deal with this?  Perhaps a family member or friend needing a dietary restriction?  Any sanity saving tips?

A Tale of Two Views

As is often my habit I engage in what I view as philosophical debates on facebook.  I acknowledge the futility of these actions, truly, but in this manner I’m rather like a cow through an electric fence…  MOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!  [I am nothing if not extremely self aware and critical.]

More recently I engaged in a debate of which has spurred me to write a few posts about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance, and living the gluten free life – but for now I wanted to talk about something else.  Something I had never had to consider before.  Specific and limited dietary requirements of a child.

There are many food allergies out there, to be sure the variety is probably just about as long a list as the foods that are eaten, but the top five are substances many of us have copious amounts of in our diet.

  1. Milk – Luckily for adults, children are by far the most likely age group to have allergies to milk.  Most children grow out of this allergy during their early childhood.  Individuals unlucky enough to remain allergic to milk their whole life will never get to enjoy some especially delicious foods, such as cheese and ice cream.
  2. Tree nuts – Allergies related to tree nuts are responsible for some of the most dangerous and possibly deadly food allergies in existence.  Some examples of commonly consumed tree nuts: walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, and cashews.
  3. Peanuts – The amount of people that are allergic to peanuts is very close in number to the amount of people that are allergic to tree nuts.  Individuals allergic to peanuts must also remember to avoid any foods that contain even trace amount of peanuts, such as certain types of Asian or Mexican dishes.
  4. Wheat – Children and adults alike often suffer from allergies to wheat.  An allergy to wheat can be very difficult and expensive to overcome.  This is because wheat is by the far the most commonly used grain product in  the United States.
  5. Eggs – As many as 1.5% of American children are allergic to eggs!  Luckily, just like milk, most children outgrow this allergy by the time that they are three years old.

Given this list as well as substantial documentation regarding nut allergies you can guess the substances that are most typically banned (in case you couldn’t, it would be peanuts and tree nuts).  There have been cases where special measures were taken where six year olds in a Florida school were told they had to wash their hands when entering the classroom, wash out their mouths, all while a dog capable of sniffing out nuts (there was NO good way to phrase that, sorry) was brought in to ensure the room was safe for one child.  In instances like this it’s easy to question whether or not a ban on nuts would have even made more sense.  Certainly it would have been cheaper as well as easier on teachers should a ban have actually been followed.

Forgetting for a moment that bans never work, I thought about what would happen if they did. If all parents followed the rules for the sake of one child – what would happen?  Would anyone’s nutrition be lacking as a result of this measure?

The undeniable answer for me was this:  My kid.  Other kids with celiac’s or wheat allergies.  A child raised vegan with a soy allergy.

What makes any rule that would have adverse impact upon the health of other children, but possibly almost/maybe/kind of – sort of aid in insuring the health of another (but not really, because there’s really no way to know whether or not the food has actually been exposed to nuts – like my gf pumpkin muffins), tenable?

The assumption seems to be that the minority, when it has special needs, should be catered to by the majority even when sacrifice is required OR that the majority should have its way even if it penalizes the minority (majority rules, yes?).  Perhaps if one never stopped to consider other people’s dietary restrictions and needs the peanut/nut argument would be easy.  If it saves a life/lives then it’s good, right?

Forget for the moment that this pseudo-philosophical argument is the same one that’s gotten the US into countless wars, and try and ignore the fact that we are really addressing children- is there ever justification for putting in place a ban that would, by putting direct restrictions on other kids’ food sources,  adversely impact their/his/her health?

My stance is pretty simple, even if it sounds without compassion, and that is no.  We can not ignore the needs of all other children and operate on the assumption that what is being demanded will NOT have a negative effect (talk to folks with celiac and ask how much of their diet is comprised of nuts, or vegans).  This is merely a justification for the needs of that child to supersede all others.  The same issue could be brought about through addressing kids with extreme autoimmune disorders that are not related to food allergies and thereby can not have vaccinations.  Would it be fair to force every child to have every single immunization available because one child is that much more susceptible to diseases and viruses?

I know these are hard questions, and some of the answers are really hard to come by.  Admittedly, the thought of people thinking I’m cheering for children to die forces me to be quiet more than I even think is prudent.  In the end I have only one real thought:  “My child’s health, which is now good and was hard won, will not be sacrificed (never mind forcibly).”

There is no advocating of punishment in these words as I rebuke the call for bans (I really will address how they don’t work in another post), but merely the assertion that the world is as it is and to make rules that DO adversely impact a population is to punish others who did nothing wrong beyond not having the worst known food allergy.  If health and thriving are what matters then is it ever appropriate to choose who is permitted to?

Just Call Me “Slacker”

I was so going to be all over the blogging world before Christmas.  Barring that I was going to be on top of EVERYTHING by New Year’s.  Yeah.  Now it’s almost March and I’m really, really trying to get on top of things again.  The truth is I’ve been in quite the funk.  Lots of guilt around being a mom of a kiddo with Celiac Disease as well as the ridiculous drive to become the supreme goddess of the hearth and home.  Perhaps the drive to be so isn’t ridiculous, but the goal its self sure as hell is.

My reading has been limited, sanity even more so, while sleep has been at a low ebb since I was pregnant.  And my daughter is now 5 months old.  Luck you guys – you get to read my sleep deprived rants!  My apologies in advance.

Life is often too busy for me to do all I wish, but it was only during a self imposed limiting of time on facebook that I realized there are many things I wish to talk about as well as read – and facebook was not the best venue for either of these.  Honestly, I almost decided to delete my account today.  Then I realized there were many wonderful things I can see on that stupid site and that, perhaps, I was just strong enough of a person to be able to control how I interact with it.

Now, how were your holidays?  Did y’all have a good one?  Any new projects you guys are working on?

Let the Writing Begin (and the Christmas Insanity End)!

As I’ve run pell mell into Christmas (just wait until Sunday – if you listen real carefully you’ll probably hear the splat of me against the window) without too much more than time for a hitching breath (ever try and make cookies without all-purpose flour?).  Writing and all that goes with it necessarily fell outside my grasp.  Few things say impossible for a concentration necessary activity quite like having to make the bread your kid can eat (even if it is a mix – feh), trying to entertain and educate said young child, while trying to feed/change/clothe an infant.  Did I mention that hubby owns and runs a retail store?  And that it’s almost Christmas?  I’m pretty sure I could be diagnosed with ADHD if someone took a peak in on my daily life right now.

My previous goal of getting up three posts a week while I also tend to my very neglected other blog is being downgraded to only a couple.  It’s not that I don’t like blogging, I actually love it, I just REALLY want to finish the wip I started more than a year ago.  Not to sound arrogant or anything, but the writing is quite good and I long to engage in that exercise again.  Pretty sure the need for adult conversation even if it is imagined (I don’t count the real ones I have with myself) might also be aiding and abetting this itchiness.  Although, truth be told, inspiration has also recently been found through both a writing group I attend on Monday nights (yeah for getting out of the house!) as well as the current book I’m reading:  The Handmaid’s Tale.  Well, that and the desire to form a complete thought that might span more than 30 seconds is becoming very vital.  For EVERYONE in my house.  They just don’t really know it.  Because I am only screaming on the inside.  Occasionally it gets kind of loud and can be heard outside the confines of my own cranium, but not too often.

I will be doing my absolute best to be getting around to everyone’s blogs again (and will suck it up and open up that email account where all my blog subscriptions, etc, are routed to) and only ask that you please forgive me if I am not particularly timely in my appearances.

On that note (as the dairy sensitive infant heralds my attention thanks to that one piece of cheese I consumed last night in the vain attempt at thinking she was past it) I must be off.  Have a very happy and merry holiday!

Celiac Disease – AKA Another reason for being absent

My child was anemic at the time of his third year check up.  He had all the hallmark signs of the iron deficiency- pale, lethargic, dark circles under the eyes, quick to get sick…  Much like I had at the same age.  An iron supplement brought him up into the barely there normal range and so further bloodwork was done.  Results indicated a certain level of inflammatory markers, and another still of  something that would indicate this disease.  We were referred to a specialist with the knowledge the only way to definitively diagnose Celiac Disease is through a small intestine biopsy; we declined.

In fact, we ignored the diagnosis.

Instead we took dairy out of his diet completely, another recommendation from the doctor, thinking that his love of the stuff was inhibiting his ability to get the range of nutrients he needed.  I bought vitamins with iron in them again and encouraged my son he needed to eat them; the ocean animals imprinted on their multicolored chalky surface convinced him.  In conjunction with this new plan of attack Vitamin C was increased in hopes it would boost the iron absorption.  He was still pale.  We started giving him probiotics in his juice or water.  His gut was still bloated – the sound of fermentation prevalent when you tapped it; his face appearing somewhat gaunt.  Months went by and we became more rigid about his meal schedule, bribing him unsuccessfully to eat his vegetables.  He could sit in a chair for hours with no interest in his legos or in talking.  When he was upset he became uncontrollable and violent.

And now here we are.  For the first time in my life I’m finding I have to read all food labels.  Everything on the shelves is suspect.  The not so good for you cookies I make for Christmas, sugar being my only prior concern, can not have flour in them for fear of my son wanting to eat one or, heaven help me, sneak one.  Going to a restaurant is something we have not even attempted as yet.  All his favorites are things he can not order.

I have given away several boxes of pasta, a bag of bread flour, a frozen Bertioli entree.  Crackers, which I can eat and are my son’s favorite, are hidden away in the pantry to be partaken of after he’s in bed; I eat them with cunning and strategy.  Sandwich bread has been tossed, chicken noodle soup put in the back of the cabinets for after hours munching, and the bag and container of all purpose flour are languishing as I contemplate what to do with them.  And then I looked at the multivitamin with iron in it.  Contains wheat, the label said, and so it was tossed into the trash when my son wasn’t looking.  As one would expect of poison, for that is what gluten is for my son, it was clever, quiet, and insidious.  It’s destructive capabilities being proven day in and day out by my complicit denial.  We were starving him with food.

There are no excuses for this.  None which even I can think of as reasonable.  For, truly, is there any reason one could give that would make you accept the destruction of their child from the inside out?  The justicar that I am has me screaming that there is nothing that would work for myself.  Oh, don’t get me wrong the brutality and high handedness of the physician and his staff, as well as their unwillingness to talk to us seriously about their reasons for all they did, left my husband and I completely distrusting everything they had asserted.  In the manner of futile wishes that is probably my largest one at this moment.  Not for my child to be absent this disease, as denial is certainly no longer my cup of tea, but for those we rely upon for sound advice in the most valuable aspect of life to operate without assumptions, particularly the one that renders them as completely superior.  All evidence to their assertions of diagnosis need to be presented.  Coercing the person before them should not be an option; reason and proof for the recommendations are the only ones that should be considered.  Show people they have good reason to trust.  There is no shortage of shame I have in myself for allowing this to waylay time my son could have been healthy; and no shortage of resentment in the professionals that act as thugs instead of experts who could be trusted.

Regardless of all this, I still had to throw out my soy sauce (gluten-free tamari now sits in its place), and am, even now, contemplating a new flour mixture for a pancake or waffle he might like because within one week of throwing gluten to the curb like the unwanted parasite she was my son’s color has returned, his attention span expanded, and the mood swings non-existent.  I have my son back.  The four different flours it took to make him chocolate chip cookies were well worth it.

Plodding Along

As the year comes to a close, thankfully, I begin my year end “oh, crap I need to make progress on that wip!” sprint.  Admittedly, the rough draft won’t even be done by then, but that matters little to me at this point.  There has been almost no motion in my writing over the last several months, excepting some half-hearted attempts at editing, and it’s time for that stagnation to stop.  It’s quite literally as though a fog has lifted.  Finally.  Between the hormones, trauma, and loss over the last few months my mind now feels clear and capable.  Getting back together with the ladies in my very informal writing group has also helped immeasurably.

To this end I am also looking forward to getting back to reading while juggling my Christmas baking AND crafting.  [Nothing lends its self to crafty inspiration quite like an almost four year old always being around and the one car leaving every day with your spouse.]  This all seems like rather uninteresting blather, even to me – but here are the pieces of goodness that have come about as a result of all these things:

1.  My friend passing has recalled to mind how valuable life is.  While it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the day to day drama and bullshit there is still life.  Nothing else matters.  Not really.  That’s what my wip was always meant to demonstrate – my thoughts/feelings on the value of a life and how its safe keeping can never be handed over to an unknown person.  Trust is personal.  And there is nothing more personal to me than the lives I value.

2.  Electricity is a requirement for living in this world.  It shouldn’t be.  My mind became calmer, I spoke more to my son (who definitely did NOT get more quiet), and the necessities became obvious when there was no electricity.  Warmth, food, water – these are necessary for life.  And here’s where I get political:  So why on EARTH do we wind up subservient to town ordinances while we pay taxes on our property that make it a pain in the ass to have a fireplace?  This kind of goes back to number one – why trust people you don’t know with something as valuable as your life – or things that drastically impact your ability to maintain your life?  [For those who don’t know and just want to focus on the Big Bad Utility Company angle of the media – it took CT’s governor FIVE DAYS to call out the National Guard to start cleaning up the Nor’easter mess.  Utilities would have been easier to restore if the freaking trees were dealt with from the get go and with the aid of the guys who had the equipment all us taxpayers have already bought.]  Believe you, me – all that is relevant to the wip.  I also really like pen and paper.  A lot.  My next house will have a gas stove and a fireplace.

3.  Sometimes survival depends upon a community.  Form one.  Be a positive part of it.  Life can be difficult and lonely, sometimes impossible, if not for the aid of those around us.  It’s not about reaching out and taking, but about reaching out and giving.  Sometimes having a little less because you shared means you wind up with more.

4.  Time is precious and totally worth being spent on good food, good friends, good books, and the quiet moments it takes to figure out exactly what qualifies as “good”.

Have you ever been unwillingly without power for a substantial amount of time?  How’s your writing going?  Heck, what kind of books are you reading?

It’s been so long and I really want to get reacquainted with all of you.  Please share.

One Less Christmas Card

First, I must apologize for being so remiss in attending this blog as well as frequenting all the lovely blogs I had become acquainted with earlier in the year.  This has been one humdinger of a year for me and so I thought I would come back in typical fashion with the laundry list of what’s been going on in my world and then attempt to work my way back into the writing I love and miss.

I had my daughter in a planned home birth in the wee hours of a Sunday morning in September.  Just a day shy of being 41 weeks pregnant I went into labor and, well, less than four hours and one push later my little 7lb 14oz bundle of joy was born.  This was also exactly one week after Hurricane Irene walloped parts of my state (not my area).  So, yeah for good timing!

3am and we're thrilled.

Now, the not so good.  The end of October brought in a pre-Halloween Nor’easter that dumped about 20 inches of snow on leaf laden trees and brought about a state of emergency in CT that blew away (haha) any records the hurricane had set.  Trick-or treating was cancelled in many towns, millions of people were without power, and my family and I were uprooted and hunkered down for 8 out of the 9 day power outage with my parents who had a generator.  And running water.  Temps I could deal with, but my kids?  Reaching over and feeling my bundled up seven week old baby and realizing her cheeks were cold after one day without power in freezing temps had me biting the bullet and being forever grateful to my parents and for having a place to go.  My neighbors were amazing as we brought out grills, pooled resources and cooked breakfast for the building.  It was only the night before we all hung out in one unit, munching on chips by candlelight, my three year old and his two year old chum running around, and thinking it was very odd for a Nor’easter to bring a bunch of lightning with it.  Apparently those blue flashes were various transformers blowing as trees fell and cracked the telephone poles in half.

Hubby kept running home to check on our kitties as internal temps of the condo got to be just above 50 as he worked to manage the damage to the association property (he had just been elected assoc Pres a few days before the storm) AND run his store since it was part of the 2% in that town with power.  Our town was at 100% without power as were many in CT.

We returned home on November 7th under a boil water advisory and to a phone call from the friend of a friend.  Lovely woman who, honestly, is one of the bravest I know.  She called me, a virtual stranger, to tell me that our mutual friend was going to enter hospice.  The next morning she called to tell me he had passed.  It took guts to make those calls and I will be forever grateful for her doing that.  So much better than to find out through fb posts.  This man had been a friend of me and hubby’s since before we were married.  Must have been at least 12 years – back in the days of being relatively fresh out of high school and trying to figure out what it meant to be an adult.  Over the summer he had called, not to talk about food adventures – he was a true foody, but to talk about how nervous he was about an upcoming appointment.  Symptoms he had, when plugged into the most vile Web MD, seemed to line up with lymphoma.  Granted, as I told him then, just about ALL symptoms you plug into a website come up with “you may have cancer”, but as it turned out – Web MD was right.  Fast forward from the results of the FNA, to the surgical biopsy and PET scan, and then you have a friend who saw an oncologist and got the diagnosis of Stage 3 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Again, I have to give a big shout out to the woman mentioned above – she was with my friend at that appointment.  I thank the stars people like her exist and that my friend knew her and had her in his life.

It was about 2.5 months from diagnosis to passing.  It felt like only a few weeks after he was admitted when he told me he couldn’t have solid foods because of a perforated small intestine.  And the cancer was still being fought and the battle seemed to be going well…  Now, I look at a Christmas tree my three year old son insisted upon and think of the pile of Christmas cards I need to finish writing up and how I’d rather skip the entire damned season because of the handwriting I won’t see on that expected greeting.  One less person I’ll get a call from saying he’s in the state and wants to visit.  One less number I’ll dial to talk politics, film, and new recipes over.  One less snarky and clever light to be around.  One less friend.  One less Christmas card.

I was supposed to make cookies for him when he could eat solids again, to crochet him an orange scarf for winter, and now…  I’m left with a jar of macadamia nuts and some lovely orange yarn.   The cookies will be made and put into my baking gifts in his honor while the scarf will be made and donated to those in need.  Sullenly, I just really wish I were sending them to MD.  To that apartment where I would send birthday and Christmas cards.

Back to regular posting, hopefully, in the next few days/weeks.