rivka: (I love the world)
We closed on our new house yesterday afternoon! We are homeowners!

Up until the very last minute - even when we were driving to our real estate agent's office holding a comically large cashier's check - I kept expecting it to somehow fall through. They'd rerun the credit check and an unpaid parking ticket would surface, and then the bank would rescind our loan. (Or at least our lovely 4% interest rate.) Some crucial piece of paperwork would turn up missing. Something. But instead we sat at a table and signed a million pieces of paper, and then each of us got a bright, shiny key.

A key to our house.

We won't be moving for a few weeks, but we went out and spent the evening at the house with [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus and [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb, who will be our neighbors now. The seller had left a box of cookies and a sweet little note on the counter. The family also left us some of the furniture (the seller's in assisted living now, and her children live out of town), so we have a wicker porch set and high bar chairs at the kitchen peninsula and a few other things like that.

I turned on all the lights and we spent a lot of time wandering through the big bright rooms that belong to us now. We watched a big brown rabbit hopping around the back yard. Then we sat out on the screened porch and ate sushi as night fell.

Here are ten small things I'm cherishing about our new house right now:

1. Central air conditioning.
2. Large, soaring kitchen with room for a crowd.
3. Won't have to carry Colin up two long flights of stairs at bedtime.
4. So many closets and cupboards.
5. Full-size freezer in the basement.
6. Warming lamps on the bathroom ceilings.
7. Gas-powered "wood stove" in the family room means that we'll have heat even when the power is out.
8. Flowering ground cover in the back yard.
9. Efficient to heat, so that we won't be paying astronomical power bills to shiver in drafts.
10. SCREENED-IN PORCH.
rivka: (Default)
Is there anyone on my friends list who uses a wheelchair and would be willing to answer a few questions for Alex?
rivka: (trust beyond reason)
I can't quite believe I haven't posted to LJ in this long. I missed my ten-year LJversary on August 3rd. I didn't mean to stop posting... but it does seem like fewer and fewer people are on LJ anymore, which makes me less motivated to write here. I'm posting a lot on forums these days, instead. (Which is funny, because I originally moved to LJ from the "forums" of ten years ago, i.e., newsgroups.)

So. Where were we?

The big news is that we're buying a house. This house. (The listing has been taken down because the house is under contract, but fortunately, the seller's agent has a blog.) We close a week from Friday.

It's funny, because if you had asked me before we started looking about what style of house I wanted, I would never in a million years have come up with "mid-century rancher!" But I found myself completely drawn to them. Maybe it's just that we've spent the last eight years in century-plus houses, but I am so attracted to the clean lines, open spaces, and thoughtful, efficient use of space.

way too much detail about our prospective new house )

It is such a house, guys. It's not anything flashy or imposing, but it is such an immensely comfortable and inviting space. We love it.

After eight years, though, we are leaving downtown. The new house is still within the city limits, about five miles north of our current location, in an old streetcar suburb the city grew in around long ago. There's a village center with shops and restaurants, and we're about a mile and a half from the light rail which takes us both to work. People who live there tell me that they still feel like they live in the city. It sure is going to be a radical change for us, though, to live in a neighborhood of detached houses with green, green yards.

We're ready for a change, though. There will be things I miss about downtown, for sure, but other aspects of it have definitely begun to pall. And we realized as we began to shop that, the way houses are priced right now, we would have to pay a premium of $50,000 or so to stay downtown. That made it an easier choice. But it still is kind of sad to be setting aside that city-dweller identity.

So that's our big news. How about you? Are you still out there reading this?
rivka: (Colin 1.5)
Colin has a new favorite story that he keeps asking for. It's right up there with the one in which he is a dog who goes flying on a green airplane.

Colin: Tell me the story about how I was just a little speck.
Me: Okay. When you first started, you were just a tiny little speck, and you were inside my body.
Colin: And I was in your tummy!
Me: You were in a special place inside my tummy called my uterus. And you got bigger and bigger, and my tummy got bigger and bigger until I was huuuuge (miming with hand motions). And then you came out and you were a baby! It was AWESOME!

That's the way we usually tell it. He likes to hear it over and over. But today he had an addendum.

Colin: And then what happened?
Me: Then you had some see-sees.
Colin: And THEN what happened?
Me: That was pretty much it.
Colin: And then I went back and turned into a little pig!
Me: You did?
Colin: Oink oink oink! I DID turn into a little pig!

...I guess he figured that if I could make up crazy, outlandish stuff, he could too.

Home.

May. 20th, 2011 04:58 pm
rivka: (Default)
We flew home to Baltimore this morning. It is good to be back in my own house, sitting at my desk in my quiet study rather than balancing a laptop on my knee in a chaotic hotel room. Our nanny came for her usual hours this afternoon even though Michael and I were both available. She did some cleaning and played with Colin, both of which were very helpful. We had left the house so abruptly that it was in greater chaos than usual - even dishes left undone. So there was a lot of work to come back to.

That's actually okay with me. I find that when I sit still with nothing to occupy me, sadness claws at my belly. Better to keep busy.

It feels as if we've been outside of time. None of our usual routines, responsibilities, and appointments. No work, no homeschooling, yet - for most of the long and horrible week - not very much to fill the hours with in replacement. All of what we spent the week in Memphis for could have been compacted into eight hours, and we were there for nearly a week. We did errands. We saw to the children. We killed time. We made small talk with people. We fended off grief or gave into it, depending on the competing demands of the moment. We waited.

Now we're re-entering normal life. I need to dredge up motivation from somewhere to pick my jobs and projects back up and feed them energy. I find myself simultaneously craving quiet solitude and wanting to avoid it.
rivka: (for god's sake)
The visitation starts in about an hour. It's not going to be the two-hour ordeal I pictured. It's going to be a three-hour ordeal. The family gets a private hour before visitors are admitted.

We're giving Alex the opportunity to see the body if she chooses, and she wants to. I took her aside to ask her if she had any questions about what it would be like. She looked at me blankly.

"Like, are you wondering what Poppy's body will look like?"

She hadn't been, but now she was. The questions tumbled out. "Will there still be his flesh, or will he be a skeleton? Will he have clothes on?"

She almost seemed a little disappointed to hear that Poppy would look like he was just sleeping. She's so far from understanding what death is that she isn't even really grappling with it yet. But it won't be something that can escape her much longer.

Okay. Time to go get us all dressed.
rivka: (for god's sake)
We got up at 5am yesterday (actually, I woke up at 4 because Colin did argh) to fly to Memphis.

We're going to be here for a while. The visitation is on Tuesday evening and the funeral will be Wednesday afternoon. I made our flight arrangements to come back Thursday morning, but now Michael is saying Friday would be better. I think he may have some business-type arrangements to take care of after the service - he's co-executor of the estate.

Mercifully we are staying in a hotel and not at the house. I thought it would be better to give the kids a break from the heavy grieving atmosphere, and Betty (Michael's stepmother) a break from the kids. The hotel is nice. We have a suite with a living room and a separate bedroom with a door that shuts. The room isn't that much bigger than a regular hotel room, but the extra privacy and amenities are excellent. It has a full-sized refrigerator, a stove with two burners, a microwave, dishes, silverware, and even a few pots and pans. I doubt we'll cook much (there's also a free hot breakfast) but it's sure nice to have the option to heat up leftovers and store snacks.

It was so hard to go to the house and have him not be there. We had barely walked in the door when Michael was drafted to write the obituary. This morning he's taking Betty to the funeral time to go over the arrangements, which were made in advance. I'm working on plans to get the kids through all of this. Not the difficult grieving stuff that the adults go through, but the waiting and the adults acting weird and the not bothering Nana. I'm going to try to mix up spending time at the house with trips back to the hotel, out to the park, or wherever. I have rescinded our TV restrictions.

They have a ten-year-old stepcousin who is wonderful with them. His mom doesn't want him to go to the visitation either, so we hit on a plan to set the three of them up in the hallway or an alcove with videos, toys, and books and have him keep an eye on them with frequent checks by the parents. His mom says that I don't have to pay him, but I'm planning to slip him five bucks or so. The kids will need to go to the funeral, but I have a bunch of things to keep them occupied and I hope it will be all right.

This is not a very emotional post. There has been crying, and talking, but I don't really want to go there right now. I am in practical mode.
rivka: (for god's sake)
Alex: Mom, I explained all about death to Colin.
Me: You did, huh? And did he understand you?
Alex (pauses, considers, turns to her brother again): Colin, dying is like fainting forever.
Colin (cheerfully): Oh.
rivka: (for god's sake)
Michael's father died at seven this evening. We leave for Memphis in the morning.
rivka: (her majesty)
...I have prednisone now, so stop worrying about that part.

Thanks.

Paralysis.

May. 13th, 2011 03:55 pm
rivka: (for god's sake)
Yesterday, when Michael called to talk to his father, his stepmother's daughter-in-law answered the phone. Michael's father has been running fevers up to 104. He's developed oral candidiasis, a.k.a. thrush, which makes it very painful for him to swallow. He no longer really seems aware or responsive even when his eyes are open. The hospice nurses upped his pain medication and switched it over to a non-oral route.

We are on watch.

Tomorrow Alex is supposed to go to her ballet class done and then a birthday party (actually on Sunday).
Sunday we are supposed to go to a Roman Days reenactment. cancelled
Tuesday Michael is supposed to lead the first Board of Trustees meeting after he was elected president of our church. pending
Thursday I am supposed to lead the first session of a Magic Tree House book club at our Homeschool Community Center. postponed two weeks
A week from Sunday I am supposed to fly to Miami, because a week from Tuesday I am supposed to give a talk at a professional meeting. So right now I am actually supposed to be writing a talk.
I need a haircut.
I ought to see my doctor, because the weeks of high pollen counts have retriggered my reactive airway problems and I am having trouble breathing again, needing to use my inhaler. I went to urgent care.

It is an open question whether any of these things will actually happen. Probably the birthday party, I guess, since we've gotten as far as Friday afternoon. I doubt whether we'll do any of those other things. In fact I am finding it nearly impossible to prepare for them. We haven't bought a present for the party, done I haven't started the talk (although the data are analyzed), I haven't planned activities for the book club postponed or even our own basic homeschooling lessons for next week. We now have a game plan that involves irresponsibly slacking off on education.

I have a mental list with packing and organizing and arranging and canceling sections on it. Getting started on that list would feel all kinds of wrong - the word that popped into my head was "ghoulish" - and also there's not much practical preparation that can be done when we don't know, to put it euphemistically, when we will need to travel or for how long. But I don't seem to be able to work on the other list either. That stuff feels so pointless.

Here's what I can do: put my arms around Michael as often as possible. Try to give the kids opportunities to be around people who are not stressed out, grieving, short-fused, and frozen.

Do the best I can from hundreds of miles away to hold a sick, frail, frightened man in the Light.

Wait. Breathe. Wait.
rivka: (for god's sake)
Michael's father is still in his right mind and able to talk with Michael, although he can only get two or three words out at a time before he has to take a wheezing breath.

That is a great gift, and one that we have always known Michael might not have, at the end.

He is not in continual pain. The pain comes and goes. The shortness of breath is constant.

Tomorrow Michael is going with him to a doctor's appointment. Michael's father is planning to tell the doctor that he doesn't want any more blood transfusions (he's been getting them more than weekly) or treatments, and that he would like hospice care at home to make him comfortable. I expect that they will give him morphine in large amounts. The thing about morphine is that it makes you feel okay about not having enough oxygen. Which is a mercy, but it also means that probably from this point out he will be pretty sedated until the end.

Without blood transfusions and treatment for the infection he seems to have, death is likely to come sooner rather than later. We may have a week or two.

It's very painful for me to not be with Michael right now, when he needs me.

Michael's father seems to have come to a place of acceptance. He told Michael that he is ready to go home to Jesus. And he made a point of telling Michael where to find the will, and the certificates of deposit, and the insurance policies. We had already discovered, a few weeks ago when Alex's birthday check arrived, that he had added Michael's name to their bank account.

I am trying to puzzle out what we will want to do with a two-year-old and a six-year-old at a full Southern funeral, complete with lengthy open-casket visitation. I am wasting my time worrying about things like what the children have that they can wear, because the other things that I might think about right now are hard and ultimately unprofitable.

I love Michael's father. I love Michael. This is hard.
rivka: (for god's sake)
Michael's father has fluid buildup in his lungs and an infection that they seem unable to beat back. He has declined hospitalization. The doctor said there isn't much they can do in any case, and that if he goes into the hospital he is unlikely to return. They're going to try antibiotics, but they don't seem particularly hopeful.

Michael's stepmother asked Michael to come. She's never done that before.

Michael has a plane ticket for tomorrow afternoon. He has a return ticket for Tuesday, too, but we don't know whether he'll be in a position to use it.

I think this is the end. I have thought that before, but I don't see this going anywhere but worse. Michael is in a bad place, and could really use your thoughts and prayers.
rivka: (Alex at five)
Why you should exercise caution before reading your child a retelling of the Odyssey:

Alex: Mom, what will happen if, one day, I'm one of the most famous women in the world?
Me: We'll be really, really proud of you.
Alex (dubiously): From the afterlife? Because most spirits don't remember anything about their former lives unless they drink animal blood.

I don't even. I hope she doesn't bring this out at RE, or someone's gonna call CPS on us.
rivka: (Baltimore)
Back in February I witnessed an accident: car vs. pedestrian. It was Sunday afternoon, and I had just left the parish hall after coffee hour, pushing Colin in the stroller and Alex at my side. Just a few feet in front of us, an SUV turned onto the small side street behind the parish hall and hit a man crossing the street. We saw him bounce off the hood and land in the street. I called 911, waited until the paramedics came, and gave a statement to the police. Other members of our church provided first aid and comforted the driver, who was distraught. The guy seemed essentially all right.

Two months later, the kids still talk about it. Alex had a lot of questions the day it happened, but then seemed satisfied with our answers. She was initially upset ([livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb helped a lot by talking to her while I was talking to 911 and the cops) but not afterward. Colin wanted to talk about it again and again for weeks: "Man hit a car. He's okay. Ambulance came and helped the man. I saw a police car." Again and again.

Last week I got a call from an insurance adjuster who wanted to talk to me about the accident. She got my permission to record the call and then questioned me for about half an hour. We spent most of the time trying to establish the basic scenario: where was I, where was the pedestrian, where was the car, what were the streets and crossings like. I think of myself as a good communicator, but she kept sounding confused and asking me to re-explain or saying the wrong thing and needing to be corrected.

"I don't have a lot of confidence in the investigator," I told Michael afterward. "She didn't seem to have a very good grasp of what happened." As I was saying it, it sounded weird to me, and I realized: "Wait: by the time she got around to calling witnesses, there's no way she wouldn't have known that Charles Street is one-way and that the man was crossing Hamilton."

Now I think she was trying to see if I would give credible testimony, and if she could shake me off my story. She did come pretty close to confusing me - I wound up having to draw a map while I talked to her, so that I could keep track of what was, in reality, a very simple scene. I'm sure she had a map in front of her the whole time. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

At the end she asked me who I thought was at fault. I said that I didn't think that the driver had been reckless, but that I couldn't think of any way that the accident wasn't her fault. She said that the insurance company had just about figured that they were responsible, but wanted to talk to me before concluding the case. I hope that means that they're planning to settle and that I won't have to testify in court.
rivka: (Alex at five)
Six years ago today, my amazing daughter was born. As I cradled her tiny body that night, I remember how impossible it seemed, that such a perfect separate creature could have come from inside my body.

Yeah. I still find it kind of hard to believe.

a year of Alex, in pictures )
IMAG0588
rivka: (Rivka P.I.)
Last week and this I've been settling into my new life in the Psychiatry Department. Biggest change: people are glad to see me. In Infectious Disease I drifted through the day doing my own thing, sometimes not speaking to anyone else all day. In Psychiatry, people say "Hey, Rebecca! You should come to this meeting and possibly get involved in Thing X. And maybe we can help you with Y and Z."

Infectious Disease was probably like this for the docs and virologists, but I don't think it would ever have been that way for me. Even if there hadn't been complications related to my former supervisor, there just weren't enough points of convergence.

The other big difference is that Psychiatry has systems and resources and personnel to do all of the things I am used to doing myself or having ad hoc arrangements for. So, for example, instead of writing a position description and hiring a research assistant, I'll be meeting with the person who coordinates RA assignments and contracting with her for parts of various existing RAs who have the skill sets I need. And when I start enrolling participants, there's someone who is in charge of ensuring IRB compliance, making sure that all my consent forms are properly filled out and storing them for me in a HIPAA-compliant way. "Because the investigators really need time to write and think."

I used to do all of that stuff for my former boss, Lydia: all the day-to-day arrangements and regulatory details and organization, so that she could write and think. Then when I was promoted to faculty level and became a PI, I still did those things for myself. It'll require a huge mental shift to be able to delegate those things to other people - especially, without forgetting about them. But I can see how it gives faculty a much fairer chance to succeed.
rivka: (boundin')
Having a bad day? Here, have a video of Colin bouncing around in a giraffe costume singing "My Favorite Things."

rivka: (alex & colin)
The kids are doing better than I feared with Michael gone. They both worship the ground he walks on. Colin has been known to cry in my arms, asking for his daddy. Not this weekend, you understand - on a normal work day, or even possibly if Michael is in the shower.

"Daddy always come back," he repeats to himself. "Daddy always come back and hold his boy."

(At least I get that one too. When I come home from work he launches himself at me, squealing an octave higher than his normal voice in incredulous glee. "Mommy, you come back! Mommy always come back! She always come back hold me.")

At any rate, we're slogging along. They miss him but it's not too bad. I'm trying to keep them busy and dole out special treats.

There's been a certain, justifiable, amount of "I want Daddy." But Colin said two things yesterday that were particularly heartbreaking.

At dinner we were discussing, once again, the mysterious topic of where Daddy is. And at one point Colin said excitedly, "When I bigger, I can ride in an airplane and go see Daddy!"

"Daddy will be home before then," I promised, but he didn't seem sure.

Later on toward bedtime he said, again with great excitement, "And Daddy be there when I wake up!" I guess he hears that a lot, on nights when Michael has an evening meeting. This time I had to say no.

We watched The Sound of Music yesterday. Alex has been wanting to for ages, but I've balked at letting a healthy kid watch a three-hour video. Yesterday seemed like the right day. Both kids loved it. (We fast-forwarded through the boring grown-up romance parts.)

This morning Colin spent a long long time lying on my chest and asking me to sing "the girl song" over and over. (That means "My Favorite Things.") I sang it again and again. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.

"Colin, why do you want me to sing this so many times?"
"I don't know."
"Just cause you like it?"
"Yes. ...And Daddy."
rivka: (for god's sake)
Michael is in Memphis this weekend, visiting his father. The impetus for the visit is that Michael's father's doctors took him off chemo and recommended hospice care. The kids and I are here. He's not supposed to be exposed to children, and besides, it's good for them to have a chance to talk uninterrupted.

Those of you who have been following my journal for a while know that Michael's father has been very sick for a very long time. He was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer in August of 2004, just after I learned that I was pregnant with Alex. For a while, we doubted that he would live to see her born. He had chemo, radiation, a recurrence, more chemo. Then the tumor was just... gone. But his lungs were horribly scarred from the radiation, and he had a variety of other serious health problems. We were sure he was dying in the summer of 2008 - so sure that I put Michael on a plane with two hours' notice. Again he recovered.

Now he has what's known as a secondary malignancy. His bone marrow was damaged by the chemo and radiation for his lung cancer, and he can't produce proper blood cells. He's been requiring blood transfusions more and more frequently, as often as once a week. He's in and out of the hospital. Michael went out and bought a conservative charcoal-colored suit.

We feel as though we're approaching the end. We have felt that way before. We have felt that way a lot of times. It's very complicated at the end, isn't it?

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