Tuesday, 1/30 11 am

Hope you enjoy the new look. New Year, New Look. Inspired by Kirk Love.

So, Baxter has been saying and doing things that I must document - and what better place than right here.

Sunday night, I was about to read him "Blue's Best Rainy Day" (see cover at left). He looked and looked at the cover and said, "Mama! Whah happened? Umbrella broken."

"What do you mean it's broken?"

So, he points at the puddle under their feet and says, "Look. Puddle. Umbrella broken - water."

Now, seriously - how freaking logical is this? The umbrella MUST be broken if Blue and Magenta are under it and yet still standing in a puddle. So, I try to ease his concerns and say, "Maybe it was broken before, but now it's all fixed."

"Yeah," he says, "Steve fixed the umbrella." Steve is the real live guy on the show - so again - totally Freaking logical!

That same night, I put him in his crib. Each night I sing Rufus Wainwright's Natasha as I rub Bax's back. So, this night I put his little pillow with a pig on it in his crib with him. I asked if he was ready for me to sing Rufus to him and he said with a smile, "No, mama. Sing the piggie song."

"Piggie song? What piggie song?" He laughed and squinched his eyes and smiled and said, "I just kidding! Sing Natasha!"

Wild - wild wild wild to see his little mind starting to work like an actual person.


On another note, there is something that is totally totally annoying me right now. It was brought about by valentine's day. I was in Rite Aid, in the card aisle looking for - of a things - a sympathy card for my aunt. After a long battle with cancer, my uncle Bob passed away this weekend. Purchasing a sympathy card for someone else is a weird thing for me right now. I may have more to say about this later, but for now - all I can say is that it was weird.

Anyhow - I saw a whole display of Valentine's day cards. I am one of those lame people who has always loved Valentine's day. I love having someone to make something for or to do something for. I love having that person that I have a connection to. So, it hits me. I have no one to give a lovey Valentine's day card to. So, as Danna is wont to do - I begin brainstorming. There has to be someone that I could give a card to -- right? I ran through the various people I have been dating, the various people that I want to be dating, the various people I have dated in the past ---- WTF? No one. This, my friends, blows. Not helped by the fact that Mike and my first date ever was on February 13th, and as the clock ticked past midnight and I got in a cab to go home that night, we were both smiling, painfully aware of the fact that we were together on Valentine's day.

So, if you get a lovey Valentine's day card from me, don't be weirded out. Consider yourself my proxy for an object of Danna's romantic affection. Unless, of course, I have fallen in love with you by then, in which case... it's for real. Now wouldn't that be something.


Sunday, 1/28, 9 am

[Bax and his new 97 cent hat from Old Navy (L) and with his new reading material (and bed head) (R)]

So, this morning, the baxman says to me as I'm changing his diaper, "Baxter has MORE penises!"

"You do?"

"Yeah. I have a big penis and a tiny penis."

Basically, a couple of weeks ago, as I changed his diaper, he informed me – while touching his tiny little erection – that Baxter had a "BIG" penis. He then asked me where his tiny penis went, and then accused me of throwing it away, "Did mama throw Baxter's tiny penis in trash can?"

I explained that it's the same penis – it just gets bigger and smaller. Like a slinky. (It was the only thing I could think of. Give me a break). So, now when he plays with the slinky he stretches it out and then makes it small and says, "BIG slinky and TINY slinky! – like Baxter's penis!"

Yeah, I have NO frikkin idea what I'm doing. When he goes to therapy at age 18 we'll find out how I've scarred him.


So, I'm realizing as I talk to people that I don't see very often, that because I only tend to write in the blog when I'm having a tough time, people probably don't have a very accurate picture of how I'm doing on a day-to-day basis. I know I wrote it long ago – that if I'm not writing, that's a good thing – but I'm also seeing how writing only when I'm "in it" gives a one sided picture of my life.

When things are good, I'm sort of like, "who wants to read about this boring schtuff?" But, in the interest of painting amore complete picture, here's a rough idea of my average day/week.

Weekends: I wake up with Baxter around 6-7 am, fix breakfast, and play/do housework until like 9. We generally do a morning trip to Wegmans ("the choo choo train store – because of the train suspended on a track that bax adores) and Baxter is a charming little bug at grocery stores these days. We talk about every item on the shelves. He greets everyone. Then we do lunch together, I nap while he naps, and then we\'ll visit someone or trek into the city in the afternoon. I feel so chill and content on the weekends now. Not rushing to do anything major. Enjoying my coffee more than I ever used to. Feeling like Mike is somewhere listening to This American Life with me.

I find that I look forward to the most banal aspects of my day – but in a way that brings me significant joy. When I wake up and think about how I get to go in and greet my beautiful boy and drink my morning cup of coffee, I smile. It's that simple.

Weekdays:. Up at 6:30, breakfast. At 7:30, we head up to the master suite. I shower and get ready in the bath off of the bedroom while bax watches Sesame Street. He helps me pick out my outfit. I pack up my stuff, pour some coffee in a travel mug, and leave around 8:20 am to drop Bax off at daycare. Lately I’ve been spending 2-3 days a week on campus at UDel to prepare my classes (which start on Feb 7). It's a 50 min drive from daycare to my office. And I LOVE it. I either make long overdue phone calls, or – most recently – shake my groove thing to Justin Timberlake or Beck, sipping coffee as my lead foot and I travel at about 80 down 295.

Being on campus makes me happy. Not only is my office sunny and big, but the people there are already like family. Practical joking, insults, and lots of laughs. Lately, prepping the syllabi for my courses has been a joy. I love what I do, really. And I guess that's about it.

Tuesdays are my favorite days of the week. I see my therapist at 9 am to clear out the muck, head to a coffee shop in Collingswood where I meet up with my dear friend Heide (who works from home as a graphic designer). We crank work out and gossip over yummy coffee drinks. At 1 pm we pack it up and go next door for a yin/vinyasa yoga class taught by Heide's friends who own the studio. By 2:45 we're back at the coffee shop to get in another hour or so of work before picking up our kids from daycare. Dreamy.

The tough time usually comes after Baxter goes to sleep at 7:30. If I don't have something planned, then the hours from 7:30 until 10:30 can start to bring me down. But I try to have folks over, work out on my elliptical, or get some work done.

More than anything, I feel a profound absence of restlessness. Before I met Mike I was pretty anxious in all aspects of life. But when I met him, much of it disappeared, except anxiety about school which continued to get my knickers all up in a twist. And then Baxter came and I was keyed up. Pretty frikkin keyed up. But... not anymore.

Kirk and I talk a lot about how nothing freaks us out. When you go through something like this, particularly after spending such an unpredictable chaotic time in the hospital just waiting and waiting to know if your life is going to look like you thought it was or not – it changes how you approach every day. I'm not afraid of anything. My OCD (is the door locked? Am I sure? Is the toaster off? Am I sure) has taken a back seat. I don't fear much – except the occasional fear of spending my days without a partner. I'm not worried about academic success anymore. I'm not worried about tenure. I'm not worried about whether every decision I make is going to be the deciding factor between Baxter turning into a productive member of society or a criminal.

It's as if Mike's illness and death gave me the gift that he wanted me to have more than anything: peace and calm. My colleague Scott calls it "big mind." And who knows if I ever could have attained this without having endured this entire last year. But it is perhaps the greatest gift Mike could ever have given me – other than Baxter, of course.

I had a dream a few months ago that I never wrote about, but that I think about often. It was less of a dream than a state of semi-conscious mind-wandering. It was sometime during the night – I emerged from sleep and couldn't figure out whether it was an afternoon nap or the middle of the night. Didn't know where I was either. The more I thought, the more elusive the answers became. Then the questions multiplied. Am I married? I don't know. Am I a mother? I don't know. Am I a boy or a girl? No idea.

And while at first I started trying to chase down the answers to the questions, I then made a decision to just sit in this sort of sleepy yet awake state, content in the not-knowing. Does it matter if I don't know where I am, when it is, or even who I am? Not so much, no. I just lay there in my comfy bed and realized that even without the answers to these seemingly essential questions, I was fine. I felt like I was floating there in space with nothing except the presence of my body and my breath.

Independent of all of these externalities, I am me and I am here.

So now, in those rare instances when I do start spinning around or obsessing about something or freaking out about how I don't know if I'll ever be married again, I can sometimes figure out how to get back to that floating place. And it all sort of disappears.


Thursday, 1/18/07. Mike died 6 months ago this morning.

[Photos for Ignatz and other readers who miss seeing Baxter's face on the blog. The photo on the left is so Mike it's a little weird. I took these last week. I bought him this Beatles T-shirt (R) and whenever he wears it he tells people that Daddy bought it for him - cause he knows that Mike loved the Beatles. And a funny tidbit to lighten this rather heavy post - Baxter is all about "Baxter's penis" right now. "Baxter has a big penis." "Baxter touch penis." "Mama please put lotion on Baxter's penis?" (Uh... no.) Oy yoy yoy. I have to imagine Mike is laughing somewhere.]

It's been 6 months to the day since Mike died. Feels like an appropriate time to reflect a bit on where I'm at and where I'm going.

Overall, I am proud of how I have been faring. I feel like I've continued to be productive and positive. I'm a good mother to baxter. He's happy, healthy, safe, and very loved. Yes I have to park him in front of the tv while I cook dinner or shower. Yes, he eats sugar cereal. Yes, he said "Holy Crap!" as an expression of joy when he opened a birthday present. But overall - he's doing great.

In spite of the events of the past year, I have finished the dissertation. Today and tomorrow I'm adding a bit of literature to the last two chapters, doing a final readthrough, and then...it's off to jo jo and then to my committee (by valentine's day). I have participated in academic conferences, got three different articles into the journal pipeline, taught a class I'd never taught, and am preparing to teach my first large lecture class. I'm very proud of all of that.

I've also re-entered the dating world. For good and bad. Good because of the excitement, promise, and energy it brings me. Bad because of the stress and uncertainty. I'm currently hanging out with bachelor #3. Different fellow than the one who got me through the holidays relatively unscathed. once holidays were over and i went to another dinner with #2, there was no real spark - a mutually acknowledged phenomenon. I will say, all three of these guys that I've met have been great. If anyone tells you that online dating sites don't work - don't believe it. I really think there are great people out there.

One thing that is difficult for me with the dating thing is that I want what I had. I want a best friend. I want a husband. I want someone I have a deep connection to - and i want it now. But that's not how dating works. It takes time to fall in love. It takes time to build a connection.

I had a weird moment in the movie theater with my date on Monday. Idiot I am, I suggested that we see "children of men." Apocalytic movie about violence, death, and chaos. Dumb danna. Anyhow - I'm in the movie, holding hands with my date and I start getting absorbed in the movie and then I snuggle up a bit more to him and look over, forgetting where/when/who/what I was doing - and I was like, "WHO the heck is THIS guy? Where's mike? " I got through the film just fine and he drove me home, but that night and the next day I was quite fucked up. My date understood - we talked about it a bit. He and I have been hanging out for a couple of weeks now and all cards are on the table. He even acknowledged that while we were holding hands walking through town he wondered if it was weird for me. And -- yes. It was weird.

Anyhow, the next day, after the apocalypse film and accompanying confusion and despair - I saw my therapist in the morning. It was just two days ago. Tuesday. I told him that I was so messed up in my head that I didn't know what to do with myself. Smoke cigarettes? They don't help anymore. Drink? That doesn't help anymore. I just wanted out. Maybe going back to bed would help. Dr. Cordier agreed. So, Tuesday, I slept straight from 10 am until 4 pm.

So, some days are just going to suck.

Last night I had a really intense dream about Mike. I was in the hospital. He was at his worst - all attached to all the machines dying. Then he died and they pulled the sheet over him. I was crying and crying and then, all of a sudden, we saw movement under the sheet. Mike was alive. I pulled the sheet off of him, and there he was. Smiling and bright eyed. Alive and happy. He grabbed for the lines and wires coming out of his arms out of annoyance and tried to pull them off. I explained that they were there to help him and he shouldn't pull them. He kissed my face and smiled.

Then I asked him a question:

"Are you ok? Do you have any pain?"

he looked at me inquisitively, "Pain?" he asked.

"Does your head hurt?" i clarified.

"Head?" he asked, still smiling.

"Smoosher, if you want pain medicine we can get some from the nurses."

"Medicine?" he asked.

He repeated everything I said. With a smile - oblivious. He was happy and smiling, but understood nothing I said. Nothing. No words held meaning for him. It was crushing.

Well, this entry is one big non sequitor.

Appropriate, I suppose.

6 months ago right now, his blood pressure was dropping. Slowly. Point by point. And we all just sat, watched, and cried. Wanting so much to touch him, but so afraid of the horrible scene. The end was worse than anything I've ever seen. It still haunts me. Often. Out of nowhere I picture him.

His spherical swollen hands and the thick fingers peeking out from under them. The huge dark purple patches all over him - from the clotting issues from the DIC. His unrecognizable face and neck - possibly two times their usual size. Buldging yellow eyeballs that they tried to tape shut, but couldn't. The rims of his lids turned inside out from the swelling. And the most horrific piece of all - the chattering of his jaw that simultaneously made him seem alive - and yet not in control of his own body. The constant seizures in the left hemisphere of his brain were causing these tremors, making his jaw chatter violently. This, combined with the extreme swelling in his tongue and the DIC meant that he was repeatedly biting his tongue and bleeding with no ability to clot. The nurses, Chris and Nicole, I think were their names, simply stood there with a towel, trying to keep his face clean and use a suction machine to clean the blood out of his mouth.

The thought was that we could at least keep him on until Lonia arrived. But that didn't happen. Eventually, the blood pressure dropped so far that the top number was under 50 and the bottom number was under 20. They asked if we could turn off the monitors. It felt so fucked up to shut them off. We lived for the monitor readings. It's what we had been doing for days, weeks, and months. But in the end, it didn't matter. It was just Mike and Mike's body. No reason to measure anything. Just let him go.

Everytime I write this, describe this, or talk about this, I feel a bit lighter. I may have to write about it again - maybe over and over. But ... eventually I'd be totally free from those images, left only with the picture of my brilliant, happy, shiny husband.


Friday, 1/5/07, 9:30 am

So, yesterday was the day. Mary and I did the entire job. Cleaned all of Mike's things out of the closet - chose a couple dozen shirts to send to my dad for the quilt. Packed up all sort of clothes which tomtom then brought to good will. We cleaned out his bureau - all his underwear, socks, shorts, t-shirts. Packed them up for good will. I cleaned out his bedside table drawer - his watches went in the special box for baxter.

I found Mike's little wooden box where he kept his earrings. When I met him he wore a little gold hoop earring. I think through my subtle prodding that disappeared within a year of our first date.

I cleaned out his briefcase from work. I found the discharge papers from March 17th when he went to the ER but the people didn't get that they were supposed to contact Dr. Evans. It was the next day that he was admitted and within 24 hours had completely unraveled.

I found the ATM receipt from April 3rd - the weekend he was allowed to come home prior to the big craniotomy on April 4th- after which he was never the same. On April 3rd he and I went into Jefferson to get some final scans done prior to the next morning's surgery. He made a deposit at the PNC bank there at 900 Walnut. That's the receipt I found. I cried so hard that I couldn't breathe. Mary took it from me, tore it up and threw it in the trash.

I also decided to use this opportunity to give my wedding dress to good will. I had planned on doing it forever- like before he got sick, but couldn't bring myself to do it. My wedding dress was insanely cheap. $299. I was so proud of paying so little for it. After our lakefront wedding, I wore the dress to dance in the grass and as we started playing beach games in the afternoon (sack races, rowboat races, wheelbarrow races)... and I never had it drycleaned. Anyhow, I brought it out of the closet and laid it on the floor in its big white bag. It looked eerily like a body bag. When I mentioned that to Mary she said. "Yeah, I know. I was thinking that same thing. Let's just put it away." So we rolled it up and put it in a good will bag.

It was so important to have Mary there. She kept me on task. She made sure that I didn't linger. She took bags of things directly downstairs or outside - out of our line of vision. But she also validated just how awful this was. As we cleaned out mike's t-shirt drawer, I had to touch every shirt as I placed them into the bag. She and I both were doing like yoga breathing... like deep deliberate breaths as though we were working out. Otherwise, it felt like we were holding our breath. Mary said that each time she exited the closet, she felt like she took a deep breath and wondered if she hadn't been breathing the whole time she was in there. It's true. that's exactly how it felt.

Mary was also smart about rearranging and organizing my things so that we didn't leave the closet looking totally empty or something. She spread things out so that it actually looks somewhat full.

I think that doing this was even more important than I originally thought.

Last night, for the first time since his illness or death, I had a dream about old Mike. Like, old, healthy happy mike was there visiting me. It was a reunion. It was as though letting him go allowed him to come back to me.

In the dream, we held each others' faces in our cupped hands. I kissed his cheeks, and the sides of his forehead. And then we kissed for real. Not the kind of kisses that I gave him while he was in the hospital - not the kind of kisses you give to an old person, or a child. But honest, passionate kisses that you give to the person you're in love with and attracted to. Given the fact that Baxter was a newborn in the spring of 2005 and Mike's symptoms started affected sex drive that summer - it feels like a lifetime since I had that kind of passionate physical connection with him.

The dream was all about the feeling of his body - his healthy soft skin. The feeling of his beard scratching my face. The feeling of his long shiny floppy hair. Looking in his flirty sparkling eyes.

In the dream, he didn't talk except to say one thing -- as I was unbuttoning his shirt he said with a sheepish smile, "Finally. Thank God."

We laughed and then smooshed.

I don't know if the "Finally. Thank God," statement was actually my subconscious saying to me, "Finally, Danna. Thank God you let go of these things. Now you can really connect with Mike the way you want to remember him." Or if, perhaps, it really was Mike thanking me for moving ahead and giving him a cue that he had permission to reenter my life as his old self.

So, that's that. It's done.


Thursday, 1/4/07

[The growing Comcast Center skyscraper (with the crane on the right)]

Today is the day I tackle the closet. Mary Javian is coming over this morning and while Bax is at daycare, we're going to pack up Mike's things. My dad is an amazing quilter and he has offered to make a quilt out of Mike's shirts. It's bound to be beautiful because, as most of you know, Mike's wardrobe is almost entirely in autumn colors: rust orange, dark green, brown, golden yellow, and maroon. Lots of solid, plaid, and striped cotton button-downs.

As for those items that aren't used for the quilt, I have no idea what I will ultimately do with them. The goal right now is to just pack them up into large rubbermaid bins. I also have been working on setting aside a collection of beautiful sweaters that I know his mother would really like to have - either as keepsakes or to actually wear (since she and Mike have the same coloring, they both look amazing in the same landscape of colors). I will also be putting together a small box of special treasures for Baxter. So far, I'm thinking it will include his wallet, car keys, cufflinks, tapdancing shoes, Mask and Wig cumberbund and bowtie (which he kept in this special little box), programs from the many shows he was in, and diaries that he kept for years. It will also include the collection of notes and cards that Mike has given to me. I think it's important for Baxter to know how much his mom and dad cared about each other.

One thing that's really weird is what kinds of objects and events strike me and draw me into a place of grief. it's not the stuff you would think. The big one right now seems so random, but in talking with friends, I realize that maybe it's not that weird. Currently in Center City, in the financial district, there's a new giant skyscraper being built. I think it's going to be the new home to comcast. It's supposed to be as tall as, if not slightly taller than, the tallest skyscrapers currently in philly (the liberty towers). Over the past couple of months, it's really grown.

Whenever I drive over the Ben Franklin Bridge into the city I see it, and I get so angry. In talking with Tom and Mary the other night, I fully realized what it's all about. The skyline that Mike knew doesn't exist anymore. And it's not like it's "unfair" that he's not going to see the new skyline. It's far bigger than that. I think it was Tom who suggested that the growing skyscraper is a reminder that time is moving forward, the world is changing, and Mike is frozen in time when he died. And the more things change, the more babies are born, the more political changes that take place, the more stores pop up in Philly, the more words Baxter can say each day --- all of these serve to move the rest of us forward, away from Michael. And he just sits there in the past as we all move ahead.

In some ways, this same inevitable process that exacerbates my grief is also the process that serves to move my life forward - in a good way. The more new music I listen to, the older Baxter gets, the more new people I meet, the less frequent and painful I find the thought of Michael. It's in my grief that I'm connected to him... So grieving is both comforting and devastating. It's sort of why, in a fucked up way, I'm looking forward to spending the day with Mike today --- in his closet, touching his things...