12.10.2007

Yes, I'm here and yes, I'm doing well!

[Jack L. and Baxter - with lollipop - in a Wegman's shopping cart... raising hell.]

Thanks, Amy and Jalena for the push to write! My silence was in part because I wanted the post about the seat for Mike at Philadelphia Theater Company to get a lot of attention... and because I've been busily finishing up the semester.

*******

So far you have raised $875 towards Mike's seat at PTC! I just learned this yesterday and I'm freaking stunned! What a fantastic Christmas gift. Thank you.

In professional news...I traveled to Chicago for a conference November 15-18. Bax had a blast staying with Michelle. He didn't ask for me once!

The conference was a nice reminder that somehow I'm still "in the game." It's so bizarre to feel like my world has transformed so much in two years and yet my research and articles have sort of served as an alternate persona... out there plugging away doing their job, even on those days when I may stay in the fetal position in bed. This conference was probably the most positive professional experience I've had in four years. Both feet firmly planted on the ground - rather than up in the grief stratosphere. Lots of meetings with various scholars I've been wanting to touch base with. And packed house at my presentation ("Jon Stewart a Heretic: Surely you jest. The Daily Show's impact on cynicism, political engagement and participation") left me feeling totally energized. I got back home with a renewed interest in my work and am launching a study for the spring.


Last week I got word that my solo-authored theory piece I've been working on for three years - on the cognitive processing of political humor - was accepted for publication in Media Psychology. Amen.

I wrapped up my classes last week. When my honors seminar on the commodification of romance ended, the 13 students passed in their journals... some with artwork, collages, poetry... you name it. I said goodbye and went to my office and cried. I adore my job. I then cooked a big spaghetti meal and had them all over for dinner and for a screening of a romantic flick that captured a lot of the themes of the course. We watched French Kiss with Meg Ryan. Fun was had by all.

I have had some wonderful times hanging out with my friend Julie and her son, jack who is bax's age. She lives just five minutes away and we have had a great time hanging out with the boys and watching them enjoy each other's company. (see photo taken in the shopping cart at Wegman's) We even had a pleasant brunch at Crystal Lake Diner the other day. Imagine!

Oh right... Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is historically my favorite holiday. We spend it with friends and it's a day of eating, drinking and laughing. But... and forgive me if I spare you the details... this year it basically didn't happen. I had a stomach bug. More like a stomach vermin. I spent the day moaning in bed. Bax watched 9 hours of TV straight. It took like a week to feel like myself again. I lost 7 pounds in the process. YUCK-ola.

And finally... For the past few weeks, I have been spending time with a boy. Young man... who is boyish. A nice, smart, charming liberal indy boy. 27. A vegan. Lawyer. Who drives a hybrid. Who has spent time with Baxter and isn't running the other direction. And he juggles. Literally. He doesn't cook, though. I just learned that. I mean he doesn't cook At. All. And as I was preparing a lil onion, garlic and brussel sprouts in olive oil to serve with pasta, I thought, "Wait a minute. Just a few months ago, I didn't cook! When I met Mike I didn't know my ass from my elbow in the kitchen." So, I've decided to cut this young man some slack.

Over the past two years a lot has changed... including me. In addition to a life full of smooshy love, Mike gave me a lot. He did a lot for me. He was the cook, the source of financial stability, the one who bought the groceries, the one who paid the bills and took care of the car. Honestly.. when I met Mike, I was still afraid to take the subway in Philly. I only ate veggies out of a can. I didn't floss my teeth. I didn't know how to pay bills online. I didn't own a cell phone or have life insurance. But, I have had to figure all that shit out by my big self ( as bax would say )...Which - in a totally EFFed up way - is such a gift.

What I need and want in a partner now are different from what they were. I mean, he's still got to have a sharp tongue, quick wit, and be bright, curious and critical, but not knowing how to saute veggies? For gosh sake, I think I can handle it.

Besides, he's young. He can learn.

Love you all,
Danna

11.13.2007

Giving Mike a Permanent Home at the Philadelphia Theater Company's New Theater

So, I have a wonderful idea I’d like to share with you, in the hopes that you’ll consider helping out as we approach the charitable holiday season. I am sponsoring a seat in the name of Mike Young at the Suzanne Roberts Theater - the new home to the Philadelphia Theater Company – and would love for you to help me in this effort.

Mike and his dear friend, Cara, were subscribers at PTC for years… starting in the late 90s. They maintained their subscription up until Mike got sick. One play Mike saw there, “The Last Five Years” (at right) became one of Mike’s absolute favorites. He bought to CD and we listened to it on “repeat” as we painted 841A South American Street’s living room “goldenrod” and “cashew," singing along to "Summer in Ohio" and being very very dorky.

I remember the morning that Mike passed away. Many people came to sit with us there at the hospital. Cara stopped by first thing that morning. She sat down next to me and I remember telling her that I wanted to resume the PTC subscription with her. I wanted to take Mike’s seat and accompany to each show of the season. So, we have. It has been an amazing way to connect with Cara, and to stay connected to Mike.

So, the Philadelphia Theater Company has moved to its new home: the Suzanne Roberts Theater. And they have a program that enables individuals and groups to sponsor seats in the name of (or memory of) an individual. With a sponsored seat, Mike’s name will appear on a brass plaque on the back of his seat at the theater. Forever. He will see every show. More than almost any of the ideas I’ve had to honor him, this one has a sense of permanence and appropriateness that I haven’t felt before. An orchestra seat is $5,000. A Mezzanine seat is $2,500. I have placed one Mezzanine seat on hold – but if I am able to raise the funds, I’d love for his seat to be in the orchestra section. I am going to be putting a sizable contribution towards the seat, and will be paying towards it over the next two years. But I would love your help. Donations are tax deductible. PTC also has a section on its website where it identifies companies that have matching programs...

If you are interested in putting some money towards Mike’s seat at PTC – any amount at all – you can donate online through their secure server.

Down below is the link to the Campaign Support page that you can use to contribute to Mike’s seat.

But first, a couple of instructions:

  • Don't go to the Seat Campaign page as it only registers gifts at the full seat levels of $2,500, $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000.
  • Instead, on the "Support" page, you can fill in the amount you wish to contribute.
  • Under “Apply,” you should note “Other.”
  • Then, in the “Comments” section, you should say "Gift in support of a seat in memory of Mike Young."
  • That will enable your gift to go towards Mike's seat. PTC will let me know of donors as you participate and will keep me apprised of the total funds raised.

DONATE TO MIKE'S SEAT HERE: https://id209.chi.us.securedata.net/%7Ephiladelphiatheatre/support/giving_form.html

From PTC: “Danna, Your husband sounds like he was an amazing individual, and we are honored that you would consider the Theatre as a place in which to keep his memory alive.”

About the program, FROM PTC’s website:

As PTC takes center stage on the Avenue of the Arts, you're invited to take your seat in our dazzling new Suzanne Roberts Theatre as a Seat Donor. With your Seat Campaign gift of $2,500 to $10,000, you'll become a permanent part of one of the most awarded and exciting theatres in the region.

  • As a Seat donor, the name of a loved one you choose to honor will be engraved on a permanent brass plaque on the back of a luxurious, custom-designed seat in the new Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
  • Your name (or the name of your loved one) will be permanently listed in PTC program books, and you will also receive recognition on the digital display in the Lobby during our inaugural year.
  • You will be invited to two exclusive events: The VIP Seat Unveiling in October 2008 and the End-of-Campaign Celebration in 2009.

11.07.2007

Photos, vids n stuff

(at left: Beth, Kevin, Susan, Danna, a late-morning tantrumming Baxter, Cheryl and Matthew and Randy in strollers)

Busy times, all around. Faculty search = on campus each day. Many meetings and interviews. Giving an exam. Getting ready for Chicago conference of the National Communication Association conference (next thursday). Making a speech for the communication honor society tomorrow night. Undergrads are scheduling their classes for winter session, and looking for guidance and input. lots n lots of stuff. All good stuff.

Brain tumor walk for hope was something else. Cheryl, Kevin, Beth, Susan, and three stroller-bound toddlers joined us. It was sad and beautiful. Together, we raised over $1000.00 for the Brain Tumor Society. But it was sad. Mike should have been there. And unlike breast cancer race for the cure, in which many many survivors participate... brain tumors are not quite so survivable it would seem. Most people were wearing numbers on their backs that said "In memory of"... NOT "in celebration of." Kind of heavy all around.

Saddest thing ever was when I pinned Bax's tag on him. His little tiny cuteness wearing a tag that said, "In memory of DADDY." I couldn't put everyone in this race through that horrific sight. I made him a new one that just said "dad" and left him in the stroller most of the race. Cheryl suggested I leave the first one on a strap a can to his back with a "Donations" sign. I'd make a freaking mint!!

At right: Kevin's ode to Mike... "In memory of: Some Jerk." As he said, "I HAD to!" So true. For years, mike gave kevin birthday cards and simply signed the inside, "F*ck you. Mike" Ah, boy humor. Who gets it?

NEXT: Bax in a velvet suit!! looking all AC/DC, right?

Scott took this great video of Baxter at the kitchen table...

Transcript:

Baxter: What rhymes with B?

Scott: G.

Baxter: What rhymes with I?


video

11.02.2007

Last Chance to Donate: Brain Tumor Society's Race for Hope

The Brain Tumor Society Race is coming up this Sunday, November 4th. Come join us! We'll be meeting at the Art Museum steps at 7:30 am. And...DON'T Forget to put your clock back one hour Saturday night, Nov 3rd!!

Thank you so much to the many people who have made generous donations to my team. It brings me a feeling of purpose when I can use this blog to help raise money for research on Stupid F*cking Brain Tumors.

****CLICK HERE TO DONATE****
to my team online with a secure server. By clicking on that link, you'll also get to see a photo of the fantastic Mike Young dressed as the "Worst Dad Ever" Halloween 2004.

************

RACE DAY SCHEDULE - SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH

All events will occur by the steps of the Art Museum unless otherwise noted.

7:30 AM - Registration/Packet Pickup (Race day registration is $30)

8:15 AM - Pre-Race Warm Up

9:00 AM - Race Start (Start line at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive)

10:30 AM - Awards Ceremony

***
Perhaps with the race coming up, it makes sense that I had the dream I did last night. I dreamt that I was snuggling with Mike, face in his floppy hair and all was good. BUT it was in the month after his first surgery.

I panicked, knowing what was to come. Remembering how there was a little window there when I think we might have been able to do radiation treatment and get that f*cking tumor frozen in time.

"Smoosher, did you contact them about getting the radiation started?"

"I emailed them last week to see about their schedule, and haven't heard back."

And in this dream, Mike was SO Mike that he even jokingly pronounced "schedule" as "SHED-due-uhl"

When I then suggested that he follow up with a phone call, I could see he was annoyed. He was finally on the other side of the surgery. The last thing he wanted to do was start weeks upon weeks of radiation. He was going to do it, but he wasn't banging down their door to get started.

For all I know, this little exchange happened in real life. I remember talking to him about it numerous times.

Dr. Andrews has told me that one of the big contributions of Mike's unfortunate case concerns the speed with which neurosurgeons need to get post-op craniopharyngioma patients into radiation. Plus, if you recall, once the f*cking tumor grew a cyst, we had to get the catheter put in there and then that mother f*cker got infected. Andrews has even told me that Mike's case has changed his thinking about going forward with radiation in cranio patients even if infection may be present. I'm not sure he's completely jumped the fence on that, but it's certainly changed the certain rule about "no radiation if there's a chance of infection."

Anyway, I am careful to not dwell on regrets. They are so damaging to the psyche. Mike was an adult. He made decisions as he saw fit. Perhaps getting radiation earlier would have prolonged some horrible brain-damaged existence... And, as I've said before, THAT would have been his nightmare.

The thing with regrets is that they place all bets on a false premise: Had x not happened, y would be different.

But you know what regrets don't account for? The chaos of the universe. The "z" variable that you're not even freaking thinking about.

It has taken a lot of thinking to get me to this point, but I've even spent time meditating on the flawed logic behind the thought that "had Mike not died, life would be perfect."

Would it really? I wouldn't have the benefit of this perspective I have now. And who knows what other obstacles we may have encountered along the way.

The only fair thing to say: "Had mike not died, life would be different."

That's it.

As you can see, I am actively trying to keep myself in a functional forward-moving direction. We'll see how that works. I'll let you know.

10.31.2007

Big Pimpin' Pirate Baxter


So, Baxter wanted to be a pirate. I think he sorta looked like a pimp.

But a cute one.


At LEFT: PIMP

At RIGHT: BAXTER

You see what I'm talking about, here?

In this next pic... no, he's not saying "EFF YOU," rather he's practicing his pirate, "Arrrrrr," - and with gusto, I might add.

All around great day. costume parade at HLC, Halloween party, and then we went home and really "trick or treated" for the first time. We went to about 10 houses.

The only less than stellar moment was when we ran into a family we didn't know who thought bax's costume was fantastic... and then, pointing further down the street to an adult man also dressed as a pirate, this dad said, "Is that your dad down there dressed as a pirate, too?"

I hate when Baxter gets comments like that. Cause for a brief moment, he's like ".....what??? WHERE?" You can see it in his face. But I quickly said, "Oh No. Remember Bax? Down there we passed that cool Captain Hook guy. He looked pretty cool, didn't he?"

''Yeah. He looked cool!"

Deflected.

10.30.2007

ok ok...

so, i considered deleting last night's post. Just for the sure "pathetic" factor of the whole thing. But I have never deleted a post. And I sort of feel like that would be weirdly cheating.

But you all know that I mostly write when I'm "in it." When I'm not writing, Chances are I'm quite functional: writing a paper, teaching, doing laundry, getting baxter a juicy cup, hanging at the playground, chatting with friends.

But last night wasn't one of those "functional moments."

PS: (one hour later) I JUST realized what probably sent me into a tailspin last night. I had just watched episode 9 of HBO's Tell Me You Love Me (spoiler alert!!!). The very last scene of the hour-long show:

After a year of trying to get pregnant and then giving up, Palek had revealed to his wife, Carolyn, that he didn't think he wanted to have kids after all. But... of course... within days Carolyn learned she was finally pregnant. At about the 10 week point in her pregnancy, Carolyn quit her loathsome law firm job on a whim. Palek, under the now increased stress of an unwanted pregnancy AND realizing he was the sole breadwinner for this growing family, had a panic attack.
Carolyn and Palek went to see their therapist. Palek revealed that he so couldn't handle the situation that he thought he and Carolyn should... split up. She did not see this extreme reaction coming at all (nor did I, to be honest). And her speechless reaction was painful to watch. Pregnant. No job. Husband wants out. The life she thought she was going to have has all... within weeks.... totally fallen apart. Instead of having a nuclear family, she's going to be (at least at this point in the show, we think) a single mother.

I think I sort of got what Carolyn's revelation felt like... a little too much.

10.29.2007

Can someone please...

...explain to me that sobbing into my pillow at 10:30 pm is not a helpful or useful tactic. my pillow is now soaked. I can't breathe through my nose. My eyes are burning. And it's all just the same old shit. This is not helpful, danna. NOT helpful.

For no reason, all of a sudden, after I turned off my light and rolled over to sleep, it came over me like a giant giant wave.

I'm alone. I'm all alone.

My bed is a California King. It wasn't supposed to be for me alone.

I want to be with Mike.

Or someone else who is wonderful.

I want baxter to have two parents.

I want to feel like I am part of a team.

It is crazy that this is my life. Sometimes I just can't believe it. I think back to 2 or 3 years ago and I can't cannot fucking believe that this is my life. This big house. This empty bed. My dead husband in a cardboard box on my bureau. My engagement ring in a box next to him.

My son who is so smart and so savvy that when he is having a tantrum he says through tear streaked cheeks, "I miss my DADDY!" And everyone around gasps for a moment. I always look down at him and want to say in reply, "Kid, you have no fucking idea. You have NO idea."

In the car on the way home today he saw the moon and said, "Daddy! Are you having fun up there? We miss you." Once at home, he looked up at the moon and asked me, "Mama, if Daddy came home from the moon, would he still be sick?"

I don't know, bax.


And yet, I know that now that I've written this and it's out there, I'll feel a little bit lighter. I know I'll fall asleep and get up in the morning. I'll feed bax breakfast. I'll get ready for work. I'll drop bax at school and drive to UD. I'll prep for class, I'll teach. I'll get soup from from the cafe downstairs. I'll drive back up 295, pick up Baxter, cook him dinner, give him a bath, read him books a go to bed again. And once again will be lying here in this bed. Hopefully I will feel better than I do at this moment.

One highlight of my day today was that it was a dear friend's 30th birthday. He's a private person, so I won't use his name. But he was my first big love. My high school boyfriend of a year and a half who became a dear dear friend as the years went by. He lives in Philly now. Big time doctor man. And while I struggle to keep my head on straight about his platonic role in my life, I have come to so enjoy the time that we have together and with Baxter. He is one of the few people in my life that feels comfortable instructing or reprimanding Baxter (e.g.; "Don't talk to your mother like that."). It's an amazing thing to have backup when I'm so used to going without.

So, today I sent him a big birthday balloon bouquet to the hospital where he's a resident. And given that he doesn't love being the center of attention, this was pretty much his nightmare... and he had to bike home with them. And even though he was publicly humiliated, I know he felt loved. And that makes me feel good.

Another highlight of my day was dinner with Carrie. She and I (and Bax) hung up a purple-light-string-spiderweb in the front window that "looks so spooky" (quoted from Baxter). She, too, chimes in as a parental figure - giving me a couple more peaceful bites of dinner when she says, "Baxter. Dude. Bum IN the seat."

Thank god for them. And for Michelle. And Susan. And Heide. And the other many friends who are returning characters in my crazy life.

It's funny. now that I have written all this, I've stopped crying and my bed doesn't feel quite so intimidatingly large and lonely.

Thank you.

10.25.2007

Race For Hope NOVEMBER 4th - SUNDAY

I realize I haven't written lately. Life is hectic all around. Trying to make a deadline for a potentially fantastic journal publication, gave the first big exam of the semester to my students, and Bax was diagnosed with ear infection on Tuesday (after a week of acting like an utter criminal). But I'm surviving.

REMINDER: Next Sunday is the Brain Tumor Society's Race (or, if you're Danna, "Walk") for Hope.
Susan and I have registered ourselves on the Jefferson Hospital Team and we'll be walking with a lot of the many nurses who cared for Mike.


Please either consider walking with us, or donating to the cause. You can do so by credit card by clicking on my personal Race for Hope page HERE.

Click here to view the team page for Jefferson Team


If the text above does not appear as a clickable link, you can visit the web address:
http://www.braintumorsociety.org/site/TR/Events/07PARaceForHope?team_id=11520&pg=team&fr_id=1190&et=UyGvhCSHEfDs5wIDGPFNtw..&s_tafId=12920

10.12.2007

Mike's birthday... and I get the present...


I'm about to pick up bax from daycare, feeling my daylong headache from random bouts of sadness and grief... and... look what I get in the mail.

My doctoral diploma.


There it is.

Done and Done.

He would be so EFFing psyched right now.

Holy crap.

Let's go drink cocktails, shall we?

Happy 40th Birthday Mike.

I so wish i could make fun of you for being so so old. I'm doing it anyway... you're just not here to hear it.

Bax and I just sang happy birthday to you. Bax insisted on going to the window so that you could actually hear it. I bet you did.

Tonight, we're going out for your big day. Kevin, Beth, Susan, Tracie, and I are going to see Jen Childs' new show, "Searching for signs of intelligent life in the universe." It's gotten great reviews and it was directed by Mary Carpenter. You love both those ladies and you'd be very proud of their work. I can only imagine how you would embrace them in the lobby after the show... your jacket draped over your arm, arms folded, head tilted to one side when they come out into the lobby.

After the show, we're going to all get a drink together and toast your birthday. You OLD OLD OLD man.

I love you,
danna

10.08.2007

Race for Hope and other tidbits


I would like to gauge interest in participation in Philly's Race for Hope (walk/run) for the Brain Tumor Society. Sunday November 4th in the am, meeting at the Philly Art Museum.

Depending on the interest, I will either be participating on the Jefferson team with Susan (and bax in a stroller) OR, if lots of people would like to join in, I will create the Mike Young team and we can get a whole gaggle of people together to raise money... and then we can have a post-race pizza party or some such fun at my house. Just drop a line in the comments section and once I figure out the response I'll post an update about the race and the logistics.

*****

So, Thursday Lonia let me know that she got a few days off from her nannying job in Cleveland and would like to make an impromptu trip to visit us. So, we got a nice long weekend with Grandma! Bax was loving it! As was I. The joy of having someone to watch TV with, chat with over dinner and breakfast and someone who loads and empties the dishwasher without being asked! dreamy, i tell you. She just left for her 9 hour car drive home at 8 am.

It's always a little bittersweet with Lonia, as would be expected. She looks like Mike. She has the same low-key pleasant way about her as Mike. And once in a while, I look at this woman and really process the fact that my husband, who I miss so f*cking much, came from her belly. He grew in there. He was her baby. Like Baxter is my baby. That brings a whole other dimension of sadness to the situation, as I experience not only my grief, but the entirely different kind of loss that she has had.

And yet, I watch her play with Baxter... I watch as we go for a walk together and the two of them run up ahead (yes... run. She is a fit and energetic woman, just like Mike). I watch as their matching red-heads bob up and down and they both stop abruptly at the intersection and giggle together. And I think how lucky I am to have these two pieces of Mike in my life. On the one hand, the mother who birthed and raised him, and on the other the baby who he made... who is now growing into a young boy.

The whole thing is all kinds of effed up. Because the reason they are both in my life is because of him. And he is. not. here.

But that hasn't stopped me from reaching across the giant looming king sized bed the last couple of nights to hold his hand. Not like I really have thought he would be there, but I have tried to recapture that "used to be familiar" feeling of reaching across the bed, feeling for his hand, knowing that no matter how asleep he was, if I squeezed his hand, he would squeeze me back. Three squeezes, denoting, "I LOVE you," with a strong squeeze on what would be the word "love." and then he would squeeze back, "I love you, TOO," with a hard squeeze on the "too." Yet no words would be exchanged... just squeezes. This worked for 7 years... and continued to work until about 4 or 5 days before he died. Once I told him he could go... he didn't do it again.

Am I really writing this shit right now? Am I really sitting here... now... 15 months since his death... writing this? with tears streaming down my face?

Fuck.

My mom and dad's gazillionth wedding anniversary is tomorrow. I think it's like 42 or 43... or something. I haven't gotten them a card. Mom and dad, i know you're reading this. I haven't gotten you a card. I spaced til just now.

And now... instead of buying you a card, I'm thinking that I wish I could have borrowed ... just a couple of those years from you... cause all I got were 3. three married years.

One of them was bliss. One of them was pregnant. and One of them was the hell of life with a newborn baby, followed by a stressful move, and a life-changing diagnosis.


Which brings me to a dream I had Saturday night. I was me now... dropping in on Mike and me from early 2005. We had baxter. He was about 4 months old... in his little red and blue summer outfit that we loved so much. We were walking together down the street. Mike was holding bax in his arms. My eyes were red and my cheeks were tear-stained. Mike looked tired.

In those early days I had post-partum. I didn't sleep at all. I cried from the second the sun would begin to get low in the sky until about 9 at night. I worried that I had made a big mistake. I felt trapped. By the time the 3-5 month mark hit, I was pulling myself out of that hole. I was connecting with baxter, sleeping more, getting some of my own work done. But it was hard. We did well as a team... we tried to see things as funny rather than daunting. But we got tired sometimes. and as I looked in on the old us, I felt so sad and angry. Angry that I was there with Michael and I was stressing about the next feeding, the next nap. I broke the barrier that separated me now from us then and told them to stop.

"You don't know how little time you have," I said, "It's hard, yes. But you're together. You love each other. Be together." And I watched as Danna and Mike looked at each other, and, with a fussy baxter in Mike's arms... they hugged. They hugged really hard and smooshed and cried a little.

I try so hard not to think about the "wasted" time. But... this dream made me think about it.

I know that living with the knowledge that he would soon die... would not have made for a functional partnership. I know that we loved each other hard and well and that we always knew how fortunate we were. But...


but what? But nothing.

Now I return to my class preparation for my "consumption and romance" class. Preparing for a conversation about the liminality of romance... how we conceptualize love and lust bringing us to an other-worldly place (in time and space).

I think I must be a fucking masochist.

9.29.2007

more great pix

I had a fantastic day today... walked with Baxter to the PATCO train station and trained it into Philly to do brunch with friends. It was so liberating to not have to drive my car and still be in the city with baxter so quickly. We are going to need to take the train more often.. He LOVED it and was so well behaved. We really enjoyed ourselves. Dinner tonight was with the Kennedy Clan, plus susan and Baxter. Good times.

Still brainstorming about what my next project will be, but time with good people doing fun things is always a quick picker upper.

Here are some more fantastic pictures.

Top R:Baxter
"reading" a photography book while in Ocean City.

L: Peter and Baxter

R: Baxter and his girlfriend Hazel (taken at Heide's house Wed night)

L: Bax and Hazel

9.28.2007

call it what you want...















[photos from last weekend's trip "down the shore" with Heather, Matt and Peter]


Ok... so...Call it what you want...

"Bored" (from David, the beloved therapist), "In a rut" (my other therapist, Michelle), "Depressed" (what i fear it may be on the brink of)... but i'm definitely .... stuck.

SO tired... all the time. and sleeping 8 hours a night... plus lots and lots of naps. With my flexible schedule, nothing is imminently "due," so i can tell myself that a nap is ok. but i wake up feeling blah all over again.

What is it? other than the obvious, of course... Well, the obvious is a huge part of it. But I also feel like I don't have anything really fabulous to sink my teeth into. No show to plan, no book that I'm writing, no big research that I'm excited about... and no crushes. what. a. drag. I get excited about teaching and about playing with Bax and about hanging with friends... but my energy level is so low I'm not really seeking out those opportunities as much as usual.

I'm a person who always needs a project of some kind. A big huge project. And for a long time, my marriage was that project. Then Mike's illness was that project - as fucked up as that may sound. And then my grief was that project. For about a year I felt like my ability to take care of things on the domestic front, raise Baxter, take care of bills, and still be a functional person was my project and I was proud of my success in the wake of the unthinkable. But now? I just don't really feel passionate about much at the moment.

I always used to feel this way. If you've read this for a while, you know that my restlessness is something I am very used to.. I was restless until I moved to the city and met Mike in 1999. I sometimes wonder if I lived in the city if I'd still feel this boredom. Yes, I love it here. I love my house and my friends. But I need to be in the throws of things to feel ... alive. Not necessarily a "place" but perhaps an event... or a person... or a .. .something?

So, my new project? Trying to find a new project. Wish me luck.

9.25.2007

dreams dreams and happy schemes


I keep thinking that I already blogged about this dream… but I guess I never did. Instead, I told my friend, Scott, who is convinced that it illustrates some kind of zen spiritual awakening… at least in my subconscious.

The dream goes like this --- I’m inhabiting the body of a surfer-dude like 20 something year old guy. He’s playing video games. The game he’s playing positions you up atop a big hill and you see the world from the perspective of various anime boys. These boys run around and try to dodge these cannonball like things that roll quickly up the hill at you. The second you’re hit by one you inhabit another anime character's body and again try to avoid the big cannonballs.

So, as this 20 something year old dude, I’m playing this game. I keep getting hit by these giant cannonballs and keep getting zapped into another anime boy’s body. Finally, after the last cannonball hits, my lil anime dude sits up and looks around. No more cannonballs.

Then, below him he sees the most amazing thing. It is a stunning view of this radiant city below. Then I, the surfer dude, remark out loud how effing amazing it is that I’ve been playing this for months and have never actually seen that city.
So… maybe I’m entering a chapter in which the cannonballs are going to stop for a moment and I’m going to see that stunning city below.

I also had a crazy messed up dream last night about Jon Stewart. I have dreamt about Jon (first name basis, yes) for eons. Studying The Daily Show, writing about it, and watching it religiously gave me this messed up sense that somehow I was buddies with him. I did meet him a couple of time. I worked for The Daily show in 2000 when they were in Philly covering the RNC and then I saw him again in 2003 when I went to NYC to do interviews with other producers of the show. I had a sweet little 15 minute personal conversation with him in cosi at 36th and Walnut, but that's as intimate as our connection ever really got - at least in "real life."

But my dreams have always been about our being buddies. Tight buddies. Never romantic or sexual – just dreams about us hanging out, joking and talking. Mike used to get such a kick out of these dreams. They were so common that in the morning he would ask if I had had coffee with Jon the previous night and he referred to Jon Stewart as "Danna's friend Jon."

It had been a while since I had dreamt about him, but last night I got the double dose: Jon Stewart AND Stephen Colbert. The Colbert plot was downright depressing. I dreamt that his longtime marriage was over because he had been having an affair with a young production assistant. I told him how disappointed I was and he hung his head in shame.

The Stewart dream plot was a lot whackier.

We were on a city bus. He had groceries. I missed my stop. And then… I pitched an idea about a comedy show. A bad bad idea.

It went like this:

“Ok, Jon, so I know everybody pitches ideas to you and everyone thinks their idea is the best… but this is totally out there and I think you’re going to like it.”

Sly smile and head cocked to one side…”Ok, Danna… go ahead.”

“So, I know it’s a comic cliché to have a Santa Claus who is drunk or like… inappropriate in some way, right? Like Billy Bob Thornton as Santa. Boooring… Been done, right?”

“Yes.” He replies, arms folded.

“But… get this,” I eagerly extend my arms in a dramatic introductory gesture, “Santa is featured as one of those Russian nesting dolls… AND… you ready? He is totally whacky and inappropriate, but NOT cause he’s drunk… it’s because he has a brain tumor!!”

I’m all smiles, eyes wide, awaiting a response from my friend Jon.


Nothing. Crickets.

“Jon,” Do you get it? Santa says stuff like, ‘Kid, get off my lap!… what do you think I am, a donkey? I’m not a donkey. I’m a jackass.’ And it’s FUNNY cause he’s not drunk… he’s got a brain tumor!

I think even my subconscious realized how utterly horrifying this scenario is, cause in my dream Jon just looked at me it shock and then said, “Catch you later, Danna” and got off the bus.

And finally… I have to write about this cause it’s the coolest thing ever.

My friend Heide recently flew USAir with her husband on a weekend trip to Montreal. After returning home, she sadly realized her iPod and all her beloved music was missing. She had left it on the plane! After trying – in vain – to contact the nonexistent USAir Lost n Found, Heide tried to just accept the fact that her fantastic gadget and favorite music was gone gone gone.

However --- hiding on the back of Heide’s iPod was a sticker she had received as a free gift – from StuffBak.com. StuffBak is a company that uses small incentives and the goodness of human beings to facilitate the return of lost items. The “finder” sees a StuffBak.com sticker with info about a reward if found. Stuff Bak handles all the intermediary stuff and the “loser” (no offense, Heide) decides if he/she wants to add more money to the reward once it’s found. Then Stuff Bak gets the two parties in touch with one another and voila: Item is returned and finder gets a happy present of $20 from StuffBak plus whatever additional reward the person wants to offer.

So, a week after losing her iPod, Heide got a call from an employee at StuffBak.com, telling her that a good Samaritan in Indianapolis had found it!

Coolest thing ever.

I think what I love about it is that it incorporates a small financial incentive with the goodness of people to help both parties involved.

My next communication research project is going to examine how StuffBak.com not only rewards both parties in these easily identifiable ways, but also indirectly benefits individuals and society by increasing people's sense of social capital and trust in others.

I’m a dork.

9.22.2007

happy weekend


Quick lil' post before Heather and Matt come by to pick up Bax and me to head to Ocean City for an overnight. Yay!

So, the picture is from last week's "family week" at daycare. The teachers usually leave it up to the kids to really pinpoint who is in their family... Bax decided that he wanted to depict Mommy and "Daddy on the Moon."

I'll leave it at that.

Couple funny piecees of randomness:

1) Russ came over for dinner the other night. I instructed Baxter that when guests arrive, you should offer them something to drink.

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked Russ in a perfect Host's voice.

"Well," replied Russ, "Yeah.. let me see... What do you have, Baxter?"

Bax loked concerned for a minute - looked over at me - then lit up and said, with a sweeping hand gesture,

"Would you like some wine?"

o.m.g.

2) a dear friend of mine (whose identity will be concealed unless she says I'm allowed to disclose it) told me a story that has had me chuckling for three days. She bought a washer and dryer set months ago and opened up a credit card at Sears to get a discount. To make sure that the thing got paid off quickly, she set up an automatic payment of $80 per week from her checking account. Early this week she thought, "Hmm... it's been a while. Those things should be paid off by now..."

so, she checked in with Sears and... get this...

She had overpaid them

by $3000.00.

Yes, she'll get the money back.

3) I was teaching my class of 25 college students and trying to explain a concept called semantic differentials - it's about different ways to measure attitudes towards various things.

I explained that you present the attitude object (e.g.: Tide Detergent) and then present the subjects with various bipolar scales with 7 points in between.

for instance:

Tide Laundry Detergent

Good __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Bad
Favorable __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Unfavorable

Then you average the people's responses to get an estimate of an attitude measure towards the object.

Sometimes people get creative and use whacky bipolar opposites, like "expensive" and "inexpensive." Problem is, for some people, expensive might indicate quality, and for other people, expensive might suggest a rip off. So, you have to be careful with the scales you use.

Another example that a lot of advertising research uses is:

Fast __ __ __ __ __ __ __ Slow

In the case of Cingular Wireless, I explain, fast would likely be "good."

But, I ask, "Can you think of any case in which slow was better than fast?"

silence, and awkward glances that I don't understand.

so i go on...

"Help me out here, people. Can you think of something that is much better when it's really slow than fast."

I hear a voice from the back row..."i can think of something."

giggles, blushing ensue.

Naive naive danna: "Ok... ummm... uh....that's all for today. See you Tuesday."

i LOVE my job.

4) I was in a bad way early this week. Sick as a dog. I'm doing better. I'm a little happier and feeling more energy. All good things.

9.12.2007

The Gyno meets Ikea.

I have an article I'm supposed to be revising so I can start on my way to a successful journey towards tenure... But I'm finding it impossible to focus. This morning was a "stug" - my friend's therapist's word for a sudden turn of unexpected grief.

But I should have expected it.

Had to go to 8th and Spruce at Pennsylvania Hospital for my obgyn annual. Joy.

Annuals are bad enough, but couple that with the proximity of Penn hospital to my old stomping grounds, plus the fact that the freaking waiting room is where Mike and I sat happily gazing down at my growing pregnant belly, eagerly awaiting a visit with the doctor for us to get to hear that crazy fast "swooshing" sound of a heartbeat...

yeah - fucking horrible is right.

So, they took forever to call me back to the exam room. 45 minutes in that waiting room, on the verge of tears, heart racing... thinking how just 3 years ago we were in there together at the "beginning" of everything. The beginning of our married life - the beginning of our family... Goddammit.

So, I'm waiting and waiting and finally they call me - but not to see the doc... just to fill out their freaking form.

Fucking form.

Do you drink? If yes, how much and how often.

shit.

Do you smoke? If yes, how much and how often.

double shit.

Marital status.

I f*cking LOVE that one.

Do you suffer from depression or anxiety disorders?


GEEEEZUS.

So, I'm now confronted simultaneously with:
a) my grief and anger that Mike is gone when he should be here.
b) all my bad habits and "flaws."

Lovely.

By the time I got back into the examination room, I was a mess in my head. I was literally lying there waiting for the doctor, dressed in my stupid gown with the lil' sheet over me saying out loud to the pink venetian blinds, "I want to leave. I want to leave. I want to leave. I want to leave."

Then the doc came in. She's new - i had never seen her before 6 months pregnant. So cute. My age and so sweet.

"So," she said, sitting down on the stool, "how are you?" head tilted to the side and eyes wide.

"ok." I lied.

deep breath followed by tears.

"I have to apologize right away. I feel so emotional in here. My husband died last summer and this is where he and I would come while I was pregnant and check on the baby and get excited about our seemingly endless future. So, I'm falling apart here."

"Oh my god." she whispered.

"I know. It's ok. I'm ok. Usually. But I hate being here. I hated that form. Your form? you know? the one that highlights all the bad things you're doing? Like drinking and smoking and not exercising and ..."

She nodded.

"I'm not where I was three years ago. The form asked about breast self-exams... I don't even shower every day, let alone do breast exams. I've barely got it together. I mean... I do have it together. My son is ... amazing. I love my job. I'm good at my job - at least the teaching part. Research doesn't seem to happen because I'm too busy trying to take steps to be a functional being."

I breathed long enough to look at her face.

She was crying.

"I'm so sorry, " she said. "I'm right where you were just a few years ago. I can't imagine. I just can't imagine."

Sometimes it just feels nice for someone to again validate that fact. It may be my reality. But it's... unbelievable. It is simply fucking unbelievable.

So, confirming what I had just lectured about in my "persuasion and communication" class on Tuesday - I sought solace in the consumption of goods. I went to Ikea. Yes, I know I didn't fix anything "real" by shopping... but for a little while I fooled myself into believing that the purchase of a new duvet cover and bins for Bax's toys could help me reconstruct my sense of self.

Did it work?

Well, I stopped crying.

But now I feel guilty that I shopped. Plus, now I feel like I need to upgrade other things in my house to match the new and improved duvet and toy bins.

Curse you, empire of conspicuous consumption!

9.10.2007

Doin it and doin it and doin it well. (ll cool j, people.)

So, Susan said I have to get that very sad photo of Bax with the nebulizer mask off of the top of the blog. So, here goes

So - this weekend was a fun-filled one for mama and the Baxman. Friday afternoon, I picked him up from daycare and we drove straight down to UDel for a departmental BBQ and pool party. Then we stayed at my colleague Steve's house and Bax got to play with his three fantastic kids and Captain Scott. The next morning we all lounged around and then went out for pizza together. Scott filmed this lil' clip of the kids riffing. Louie is on drums (the kids a freaking prodigy with rhythm), Josh is grooving next to Louie, then Bax is jamming in the hat across the table - sitting next to Chloe. They were SO good... just chilling and eating and singing.


video


I've started to get my life together a bit, but I had a rough week last week. Reeling from Bax's illness and 4 days of douche-bagness due to his oral steroids, I just couldn't seem to get my feet on the ground. Running to catch up - every minute.

Then, my head started going places it hadn't before. I started doing a mental comparison of my current life with the life I would be living if Mike hadn't died.

My life now is so full of tedium- from morning til night I'm running to catch up. Morning:

get bax breakfast,
get ready for work,
get bax dressed
get my stuff organized
feed cat
scoop litter
take trash out
start laundry
do neb with baxter
get out the door by 8.

I don't usually think too much about it, cause its a waste of time to get bogged down. In fact, usually I think about all the shit I do on a daily basis and feel a little like superwoman or like a warrior - and that energy keeps me going strong. But last week I was tired. And lonely. And for some reason on my ride to work (driving on 95S) one day last week, I had a flashback.

... to driving south on Route 95 with Mike - on our way to a camping weekend in Delaware in 2002. Just the 2 of us. Cooler of food, tent and camping gear in the back. We rented a canoe and cooked dogs on the grill that weekend. For whatever reason I flashed back to that great weekend and thought - shit... instead of spending weekends trying to get my footing and do grocery shopping ... maybe we would all be going on camping trips or heading to the poconos or to the beach with baxter. and I started really resenting the fact that that is SO not my life right now.

But, you know what? How do I know what our weekends would be like. Having kids changes things a lot. Would we really just be doing fun family activities on the weekends? Would we be camping and beaching and hiking and doing day trips to New Hope (which I love and miss so much)? I don't know that we would actually be doing all that stuff... we could be getting bogged down in the details of the day to day anyway.

So, Wednesday I took some steps to get my feet moving forward again. I took a great long walk with Baxter in the morning. I moved my bedroom around - including the king sized bed that I built from Ikea... placed it directly under my big windows. Moved my elliptical machine (and actually started using it again). Then, in the afternoon, per Susan's instructions, I got a manicure and pedicure - and the woman talked me into my first eyebrow wax.

Nothing says fresh start like getting hair ripped from the follicles.

Anyhow, good news is that I feel like I'm moving in the right direction heading into this new week. I caught up with some important people in the last 5 days... and human interaction is my religion. I cooked dinner for Tom and Mary (yes, you read that right. I cooked!), had a great long conversation with Michaela on the phone, caught up with Lonia and talked about plans to visit this fall, got some time and a great mexican meal with Russ, did my Sunday brunch with Michelle and company, and got to see a fringe show and spend time with friends in the city last night.

I'm sure I'll get stuck again - and again I'll take steps to try to get out of it.

But, fortunately, I'm in a better place. And as you can see in that video - my boy is back! And that brings me MUCH joy.

9.02.2007

Bad Mommy

So, My friend Scott Caplan - or "Captain Scott," as Bax calls him - came up from UD to help out with the baxman a bit. According to Scott, the vision of Baxter with the nebulizer mask on is just so utterly pitiful that he wanted to get a picture of it - particularly how well baxter dealt with the damn thing - sitting in his lil' Thomas chair watching TV with this crazy contraption on his face. He looks an awful lot like an 80 year old emphysema patient. Particularly as he sits in his mini-lazy boy with his legs crossed. It's just so wrong.

Even funnier than the pitiful image of baxter -- is the fact that Scott captured MY arm trying to snap a photo of bax with my cell phone to exploit his vulnerability.

Poor Baxter. Asthmatic, uncomfortable, and exploited.


BAD Mommy.

8.31.2007

The Bubble Boy Update

Returned to the pediatrician this afternoon. Bax's fever is gone, but his cough is so persistent and keeps him up at night still... hence my "please help me" note from this morning.

So, Doc gave bax a Rx for oral steroids. That should help.


...Plus make him totally buff in the process.

He seems less miserable today - and seems to be coughing less thus far tonight. So keep those fingers n toes crossed - cause I am running out of steam.


crazy request?

First, Thank you so much for your many encouraging and sharing posts the other day. It felt so good to see that while I was up and alone in the middle of the night, this whole gaggle of people were there to tell me that Bax'll be ok. And as for the eggfree recipes? Bring 'em on!! I have baked stuff for him with egg-free substitutes, but it's tricky to know when the substitutes work and when they create a disastrous nightmare like the Betty Crocker brownie mix that I tried with applesauce instead of egg --- it ended up like a pan of volcano lava. Burnt volcano lava.

My crazy request: Any chance any of you out there who know the baxman would be willing/available to help me this weekend? Just to play the role of another set of hands in my house and to get up with him one morning?


His cough is just starting to loosen up. He was up in the night coughing, but was able to stop the spasm way faster than the last couple of nights. He's whiny as all hell - so I'm trying to nip that in the bud.

The main reason for help isn't that bax is so much worse or anything like that... it's just that I've fallen behind and can't catch up. I went to be early at 9:30 pm, but each time bax was up last night, I was so wired that I couldn't get back to sleep for hours. And, like every day, he was awake for the day today at 6.

Currently I am so sleep deprived that I feel hung over and on the verge of getting sick. And I need to feel like my feet are on the ground going into week #2 of classes.

Thanks all. hugs,
danna

8.29.2007

Q: It's 3 am. Do you know where Danna is?


[Image: the "nebulizer" treatment]

A: Trying desperately to get Baxter (aka: bubble-boy... so inappropriate, but I won't tell him I call him that if you won't) to stop his persistent coughing fits. The boy has bronchitis and he has spasms of coughing that never end.

Since 2:15 I have been in there trying different things ranging in their ratings on the "freaking crazy idea scale":


Sippy cup of juice
Sippy cup of Coca cola (suggestion from Mimi)
Prop him up a bit on his pillow to be more upright.
Full round (10 minutes) of albuterol treatment through the nebulizer (aka: breathing machine)

Still coughing - so then mama starts to turn crazy...


I remove the throw rug from his room silently so he doesn't see.
I remove all the stuffed animals from his room (maybe they're dusty)

I vaccuum his entire room (again - it's now like 2:45)
Again I try the coca cola.

Not exactly sure where to go from here.

I panic that when he's NOT coughing he's actually in there turning blue or something.

Friends have heard me say this... but I've never written it. In terms of long-term issues for Baxter, more than I actually worry about his health, I worry about the social implications of his situation.

The kid is severely allergic to eggs and peanuts. This means no baked goods: no cookies, no cupcakes and no birthday cakes at school. It means no sharing or exchanging lunches. It often means no impromptu ice cream cones.

He's also - apparently - Mr. Asthma. Which - when I had asthma as a kid meant (or at least I advantageously turned it into - at the ripe young age of 8) ... no running sports and sitting on the side lines at field day instead of playing.

And... ok folks - let's say it: No Daddy. Or perhaps weirder, he has a daddy... but no one's ever seen him cause apparently he "lives on the moon." Now this I could really see posing a problem when Bax is like 13 or so. I'm assuming, giving his penchant for inquiry, that this lil "moon" story might only last another year or so tops... then I figure my shit out anew.

Point being -- yes, I want Baxter to be himself. I want him to be bright and quirky and funny and unique... but I don't want him to be weird.

Being weird = childhood scars.


... Hey!... I think he finally stopped coughing. Let me go check...

Finally peacefully asleep. In his newly vacuumed, stuffed animal-free bedroom.

Go ahead... say it. I'm a f*cking lunatic.

Good night, friends -- or shall I say good morning?

8.27.2007

Thank you.

For another amazing night!

This year's Laughtastic Sketch-o-palooza was a huge success. We made almost $1000 in donations alone. And to Mary Lou - who won the 50/50 and then gave her half to the Mike Young fund... Thank you so much. It was great meeting you and I hope we see you again next year.

The crowd was full of friends and strangers alike - people who had driven down from NYC to see us (Thanks MJC!), people who I hadn't seen in a long time (Anne and Michael!) and people who I love so much but hadn't seen since the day Mike died - this includes Mike's surgeon, Dr. David Andrews (who came to the show with his daughter), and Mike's NICU nurses.

Wow, right?

Thanks again to all of the talent who performed for free, to World Cafe Live who gave us a huge break on the cost of the space for the night, to Swivel Studios for the design of the program, and to Disc Makers for the original program design, and for donating the production of the programs...

Thanks Jessie, for helping with sound stuff in a pinch, to Susan for kicking ass getting donations and raffle ticket sales, and to the great Don Montrey, whose tireless committement to jokes he loves is... impressive. Come on, people - you know Mike was laughing at the Hitler joke. It was IRONIC for gosh sakes. Or at least Mike was laughing at your unflappable delivery of the Hitler joke and unaffected stage presence in the face of a... shall we say.... pregnant pause from the crowd? Don - I don't care what anyone says... YOU, my friend, to have large balls.

So much love and so many hugs,
danna

PS: The wonderful Annie, who was sitting for Baxter last night, was kind enough to wait to tell me that Baxter was coughing like a crazy man and had a 102 fever before bed. She had it under control and didn't want to freak me out.

So, today I'm missing my faculty meetings and am home with Baxter. Classes start at Delaware tomorrow, so I can't afford to not nip this in the bud now. We went to the pediatrician this morning. He's got bronchitis. The boy is a lil' asthma machine. As soon as he has a cough for more than 2 days, the doctor said I need to start Baxter on a nebulizer machine. Otherwise it undoubtedly WILL turn into an infection and get really tight and horribly wheezy. So... live and learn. In my attempt to not be a crazy overreactive mom, I turned the kid's cough into bronchitis. ahhh... welll...

The kid's in great spirits and is a total goofball.

Ok - he just asked me why the puppet animals on Jack's Big Music Show "...don't have tongues?"

Tongues?

"Yeah. they don't have tongues. Why, mama?"

Then, this morning on our way to the doctor I said, "Baxter, you're my favorite person."

He replied, "I'm not a person, I'm a man."

"Ok, well, then you're my favorite man." and out of curiosity - because I never talk about him being a "man," i asked, "Do you know what makes you a man? I mean, how do you know you are?"

He said in an emphatic tone, 'BECAUSE, mama... I build things. Like Bob the builder."

Ah-ha.

"But mama builds things. I'm not a man."

"Mama. I'm a man because I'm not a girl."

Right. process of elimitation. that works.

Gender roles. Gotta love 'em.