[March: busy busy freaking times. Help needed. See below.]

So, this post is really for business purposes more than anything. 1) I am finally ready to list all the random DVDs etc that need to be claimed by their rightful owners. These were items lent to Mike when he was at Jefferson. 2) With classes in full swing (200 student intro to Mass Comm course that I've never taught before and a 25 student senior seminar on media effects) I am in need of some help on the homefront.

DVDs to be claimed. Some of these may have been gifts to Mike. I don't know. Either way, I'm not going to watch them. So please take them:

  • Arrested Development season 2
  • Marx Brothers collection
  • Decalogue collection - deke, i think these are yours.
  • Clint Eastwood box set with 5 movies (the dirty harry series)
  • Cary grant dvd collection with 5 movies
  • Warcraft - reign of chaos video game
  • Planet of the apes box set
  • Battlestar gallactica season one
  • Once and Again Season One - this was ours but I don't want it... We watched this show religiously over popcorn and Dr. Pepper.
  • A bunch of comic books - which I think belong to Jason.

As for request #2: I'm already quite sleep deprived and March is going to be nuts. Bax is up at 6 every day. I teach MWF - leaving my house at 7:30 am, in my office at 9 am. I prep and teach my two classes, hold office hours leave campus at 4, get Baxman and am home around 5:30 pm. Bax goes to bed at 7:30 pm and I tool around - cleaning, laundry, bills, classwork - and yes, blogging - until 10 or sometimes 11. Time FO' Bed!

This is all fine, except now I have to do the final final revisions on the dissertation and prepare for my defense. Yes, the freaking dissertation defense is finally scheduled. Save the Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Danna defends the diss - in public no less. Oy yoy yoy. I'll return to this in a moment.

Point being: Between teaching, thinking about prepping for the dissertaion defense and Baxter's occasional moments of major TWO-ness. I'm starting to feel the burn. I'm going to crash soon. Instead of hitting a wall, I figured I'd ask for help.

I know I could ask Annie or Susan or Michelle, but though I'd put it out for other good samaritans:
Is anyone able to or interested in coming over for a sleepover on a Fri or Sat night in March. I'll cook dinner (Yes, I cook now. One of the many fucked up ways that my universe had turned upside down since Mike died. Crock pot madness, chicken in a red wine marinade, stir fry, and many baked good from scratch out of his Cook's Illustrated Cookbooks - cookies, muffins, breads -- all egg free so bax won't go into anaphylactic shock). Anyhow: we have a nice visit in the evening, go to bed at a healthy hour, and YOU - you kind soul, you - get up with Bax and do the breakfast/hang in jammies playing and watching TV thing. And I sleep. That's it. I could also use that same help on a Mon or Wed night, too - in which case, you could get up with bax in the am and drive him to daycare.

Another form of help that I could use would be a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to come over so I can grab a little productive time in my office. like 1-5 or something.

Weekends I could use the help:
Fri/Sat March 2-3 (this friday-sat)
Fri/Sat March 9-10
Fri/Sat March 16-17
also Mon or Wed nights.

More info about the dissertaion defense: at 2 pm on Tuesday April 3, I make a public presentation of my arguments. Not sure for how long - maybe 30 -45 min? I'm guessing here. The defense will take place in a classroom at Annenberg. Then my 4-member committee gives the public audience the boot and grills me about my dissertation. Then, they give ME the boot. I wait and wait and bite off all my nails until they open the door, invite me back in, sit me down, and tell me my fate. Ta-Da. That's it.

Can you freaking imagine? April 4th I might just be Dr. Danna. And yes I will ask you to refer to me as such... ok... just for a day? please...?

love to you all.


Bax's snowy day...

[Today - all suited up in snow gear.]

We got about 3 inches of snow here this afternoon... And with no tricks left up my sleeve for the baxman, I decided that playing in the snow was our last resort. He was in freaking toddler heaven. And, as usual, out of nowhere he just about broke my freaking heart.

I showed him how to make a snowball. We threw them out into the yard and at the trees. I explained to him that it was like that episode of "Little Bear" (cartoon) where they had a snowstorm and little bear and his dad had a snowball fight in the back yard.

After a couple minutes of him telling me what various objects to throw snowballs at, I gave him a big one that he held onto with his clumsy mittened-hands.

"I want to throw it up to the sky," he said thoughtfully.

"Well, it will come down, you know. Gravity and all."

"No mama, I throw it up to the sky. I throw it to Daddy." He looked at me with his big huge blue eyes through the sea of giant snowflakes falling between us. "Daddy catch it?"

I can't answer...

Bax continues... looking up into the crazy heavy snow falling into his lashes, he holds the snowball up with two hands like a priest offering the host. Seriously. It was freaking dramatic. He struggled to keep his eyes open, and looking straight up says, "Daddy, this is for you!"

"umm.... ok, Bax. You want me to do it? I can throw really high, bax. I'll throw it up to Daddy."

Huge grin - and he gives me the snowball. I make an exaggerated gesture preparing to throw the ball up to the sky, wait until the brief moment that he looks away, and throw the thing up and over out neighbors' fence.

"He got it, Bax! It didn't come down! He caught it!"

Baxter was so happy. He did a little dance and we went about our play.

So, after about 10 minutes, he pauses and says to me, "Little bear throw snowball at his daddy. Baxter want to throw snowball at Daddy, too."

yeah. sheeeeesh. Frikkin TV. Root of all pain-in-my-ass. And my livelihood. Dammit.

Fun weekend other than Baxter's moment of snowball drama. I did have tomtom and meh over friday night and cried hard for about 10 minutes out of missing Mike along with them. Then, Mary's shiny new ring caught my eye, and I literally broke from sobs to say, "Oooooh! What is THAT?"

We had quite a laugh. ADHD much? But that's how it is... In it one minute and out of it the next. Or, fine one minute and in the bottom of a deep well the next.

If I could just get someone nearby to always have a shiny object on hand... I think I'd be ok.



I just finally pulled myself up off of the basement floor. This is not where I was supposed to be right now. I was supposed to be watching American idol on the couch, not sitting out on my porch with a cigarette, drinking a jack and diet coke from the paper take-out cup I got at McDonalds, wiping tears as I purge everything into my computer.

But, around 8:15, I got an email from Mike’s sister, Dr. Diana, telling me that Mike’s 107 year old Chinese grandmother had passed peacefully around lunchtime. People wonder why Mr. Responsible Mike Young didn’t have a big life insurance policy? Well, if you had 20/20 vision, low cholesterol, an excellent bill of health and a 107 year old grandmother, you wouldn’t either.

So, I go into the filing cabinet in the basement to find the annual report from the nursing home that Mom Young was living at. In 2004, we got a copy of it from Chris, Mike’s Dad. It featured Mom Young on the cover, looking so precious in a wide-brimmed white hat. She was so tiny… like four feet and change. I met her once in summer 04. We were pregnant with Bax. I think her comment (in Chinese) was, “She is SO BIG.”

So I’m in the basement hunting for this picture of Mom Young, and I can’t find it. What I do find, though are Mike’s special folders, where he saved a handful of important things. One had all sorts of greeting cards from people. One had every card and love letter I had ever given him. One had playbills from all his shows. I don’t know why I hadn’t come upon the first two before. Perhaps I had, but I wasn’t ready to look.

In the cards to him were these amazing hand-written notes from all different people who loved him. Cards that all say how much Mike meant to them. How he is one of their favorite people in the whole world. How, as a friend, mentor, and director, he had changed their lives. Cards from Mary Carpenter, Cheryl, Bobbi, Peter, Andy, Jessie… and the list goes on.

If anyone ever had doubts about to what extent Mike realized how loved he was, this should clear that right up. He clearly cherished these. They were neatly arranged, all facing the same way, no messy envelopes accompanying them. Just the cards with these magical words from loved ones.

Then there was the folder with my notes to him.

Some were homemade cards, anniversary and valentines cards, but most were just “I love you” cards:

And a letter I sent him in August 2000: “…did I mention that I love how you like to play, and how your eyes light up when you laugh, and how you can always put a smile on my face, and how quickly you’ve mastered the art of smooshing, and how you keep chocolate in your candy bowl, and how electrifying your touch is, and what a wonderful cook you are, and how beautiful your voice shounds when you sing harmony, and how it feels when you reach over and touch my knee in the movie theater, and how you like late breakfasts and politics Sunday mornings, and how you appreciate the simple things, like time in the park, and what a joy it is to have you as my best friend? I love you. In dearest smooshliness, danna.”

January 2001: “I love you, my smoosher. I love playing with you, kissing you, laughing with you… I always feel like I want to make things for you, or write to you or do something to express how much I love you. The only thing that comes close to satisfying, though, is the simple act of smooshing. I love you.”

For our first wedding anniversary (June 2004): “Thank you for an amazing year – the first of many laughter-filled years together. Not only do I feel lucky that I found you, but I feel lucky that our love grows each day. I can remember a time when I was restless and couldn’t seem to be content. That seems like lifetimes ago. I love sharing my life with you. It’s just so… good. A year from now, we’ll be sharing our anniversary with our 6 month old nugget! Can you believe that!? What a wonderful life we have waiting for us. I love you so much. Love, smoosher.”

Finally, I found a pile of cards that he stockpiled to give for birthdays and other special occasions.

But, on top, was one of those square "Fresh Ink" cards. He never signed it. But the copy read:

“Driving home, knowing it’s just you, me, movies and take-out for the rest of the night….i love that.”

It was like he saved it and tonight finally gave it to me.

F*ck. As always, I know I’ll be fine. But this sucks so much. We had a lot of living to do together. I rarely talk about that because I hate how the words even make me feel… but here they are: It’s not fair. We weren’t done. And Mike certainly wasn’t.

But, unlike most of us, he went out on top. Someone recently said to me, “He’s like Hendrix.” He’ll always be young, brilliant, and very alive. Not shriveled up, shuffling slowly through the Thriftway on Tuesdays for the 5% senior citizen discount. So, there’s something, right?

And Mom Young, I hope you and your grandson are tap-dancing together...on the moon.


The first thing bax says to me this morning...

I pick him up out of the crib in his lil' footie pajamas:

"Is Daddy here?" he says, pointing towards the door to his bedroom.

"What, honey?"

"Is Daddy here at my house?"

"No, Baxter. He's on the moon."

"No. Daddy's here. Daddy's coming."

"What do you mean, Baxter?"

And then he said something about Poppy (my dad). Like Poppy told him Daddy was coming. I wonder if he had been dreaming. He had woken up briefly about 45 minutes before he really woke up for the day, so maybe he was sleeping lightly enough to vividly recall the contents of his dreams.

Who the f*ck knows.

But man, is he cute, and man does it destroy me when he says things like that.

Ok -- off to work for the day.


Kids and nurses do the darnedest things...

["Shubbeh" - a la Baxter... read on.]

I was on a coffee date this morning. Great guy. Smart, fun, and super-positive. At 32, he's one of the younger guys I've gone out with, but having survived cancer (no shit, right?) he's got some perspective - and a sort of peaceful chill way about him. Anyhow, point being, we get into a conversation about how freaking amazing people are. How being down in the shitter really shows you what people are made of. He tells me about his great nurses. I tell him about Mike's techs and nurses who cared for him day after day. ...

So, I get home today and there's a valentine's day card for me - signed by my favorite girls ever - the nurses and techs at JHN: Judi, Shamell, Camye, Martia, and Nicole. So freaking sweet. And Martia - you bet we're going to the zoo when the weather warms up. And Camye - I don't want to hear any of this b.s. about, "I don't DO zoos." Yes, they're filthy and full of smelly animals. But it'll be a damn good time. We'll get ice cream cones and hunt for handsome men in the crowd. Deal? 185cranios@gmail.com. Let's do it.


Now onto my cute cute boy:

The other day he asks me out of nowhere, "Mama, what're you thinking about?" When I then asked him what he was thinking about, he replied, "horses."

"And Baxter, what do you think that mama is thinking about?"

"Ummm... cows?"

I thought it was a fluke and that maybe I misunderstood the whole thing. But tonight, I put him in his crib for bed and we have the following conversation - that almost makes me pee my pants:

"Mama, what I knowing?"


"What is Baxter... What I thinking about?"

"What are you thinking about?"


"I don't know, babe -- you tell me? What are you thinking about?"

"I think 'bout balls. Elmo's balls."

Now i'm starting to crack up. "Elmo's balls? Awesome! What is he doing with them?"

"He jump in the balls.... and I think 'bout soccer balls."

"Cool. Soccer balls are good."

"And I think 'bout shubbehs"


"I think 'bout shubbehs."


"Yeah. Shovels. And dirt."

I'm laughing hard now. Baxter's smiling.

He continues, "Baxter eat dirt? Noooo... Baxter no eat dirt. Baxter get sick. Baxter eat crib? Nooooo. Baxter no eat crib. Baxter eat belly? Noooo. Baxter no eat belly."

Dude - my son: the king of non-sequitors.


'Nother tidbit. I've been playing Ben Folds' Rocking the Suburbs CD a lot and have been playing some of the songs on the piano.

At dinner last night, he starts singing, "Annie waits Annie waits Annie waits for a call."

And he's been rapping - gibberish rapping. Mike would be so proud. With a little sassy shimmy and shrug up and down of his left shoulder, he raps:

"Boo ditty dah, ditty boo boo bah. Biddy biddy boo biddy dah bah bah."


Happy F*cking Valentine's Day.

[The 11 children under the age of 3 who are now members of "the family" - (back row in mama's arms: Sadie, Elio, Griffin, Matthew Michael, Marina. Chillin on couch: Soen, Baxter, Jack, Peter, Adler, Sylvia).]

For the past few weeks I have been horrible at keeping in touch with friends and family. I could say that it’s because my semester started and now I actually have work that has to be done each day… and I’m sure that’s partially true – but it’s something else, too. Navigating old connections in my new world has proved challenging. Not because it’s awkward or unpleasant when I do finally talk to people, but … the anticipation of it brings me heaviness.

There are a few different things at play, I think. One is that my dearest friends are all such an intimate part of my relationship with Mike that being with them opens the wound again. And while this pain lessens with each new experience without Mike there, it’s still hard to want to jump into it each time. Another is that most of my friends who have tiny kids are a part of a couple, and while I’m ok with being a single mom, it does make my newly acquired solo-status salient in my mind.

Another is that in a weird way I’m regressing a bit – dating, going out, trying to rediscover who I am as a single woman – and that puts me in an entirely different world from my closest friends who are just starting their families, enjoying the nesting process and envisioning their lives growing old together with their kids. I feel embarrassed sometimes about where I’m at – that my new life brings out the juvenile in me – the romantic who goes from one crush to the next. I am a passionate person and whatever I’m doing dominates my thoughts. I imagine that all the minutia about this whole scene is going to nauseate my friends. Maybe I’m projecting, who knows.

This gets at another thing that is weighing on me. Trying to balance my role as mother and my role as a single woman trying to meet people. I’ve always been a bit like a pendulum in my life, swinging from one extreme to the next with moods, hobbies, activity level, productivity… It was Mike who brought me balance. Now I’m trying to find it for myself. Part of me wants to abandon the search for a new partner and just invest all my time and energy in Baxter and my career. Perhaps I should just wait and see what happens in terms of love schtuff. It would certainly be a lot safer. Retreating to my home life would be more peaceful, but a hell of a lot less fun. And, waiting around is not my forte. I’m not a “wait and see what happens” kind of gal. I make things happen. Not in an “I’m so great” kind of way – but in an impatient and impulsive kind of way.

I remember as a kid being bored to the point of depression sometimes – usually Sunday afternoons.
Hated it. I would get so desperate for some sense of purpose that it would bring me to tears. So, I would brainstorm a plan – some big idea to move me forward and get me to shut of the freaking television. I would play piano, write stories, draw, build an entire city out of shoe boxes for my “my little ponies,” do some craft project, catalog and order my Archie comics by price, year, and then by title – and then there was rearranging my room – which I did all the freaking time.

That is me now.

As I sat in David’s chair this morning, crying hard and repeating my mantra, “I hate this. I just hate it. All of it.” My brain was moving a million miles an hour, grasping for anything. Anything at all to pull me out. As I’m sobbing, the little gerbil on the wheel in my head is sweating bullets, going through people, activities, projects, research ideas, outings. ANYTHING to save me from my head. And the crazy thing is – it works. I started talking about how I have a coffee date later this week with a new person I’ve been in touch with. I started thinking about how I was going to spend my afternoon with Baxter baking for his class’s valentine’s day party, how my agent is submitting the blog manuscript to a new round of editors and that could be exciting, how I’m meeting with JoJo on Thursday about the final rounds of revisions on the dissertation and that I’ll be defending it soon. I thought about spring – and how I can’t fucking wait to plant things – to rake, to prune, to reseed my lawn. I’m serious.

Anyhow, point is – please don’t be upset if I’m not in touch. If I don’t return your calls or emails --- it’s just where I’m at. For whatever reason it’s hard for me. That’s it. If you really want to be in touch, though, email is the best way. I can reply on my own watch – even several days later. The phone is my nemesis right now. So, I never answer it.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Oh yeah. Happy Fucking Valentine’s day.


Ah... the Walgreens Girl.

Oy. Just got back from a walk with bax to walgreens. That sweet girl was there. The one who would always ask Bax if he was going to go home and see “daddy.”

We used to go in there all the time the three of us, and I don’t think she has registered that it’s been a YEAR since she’s seen him in there.

So, today she says, “I have an idea! I love kids and Baxter is SO cute. Do you guys need a sitter for Valentines day?”

My stomach sinks,

“That’s so sweet. No, though… we’re all set.”

“What?! You guys aren’t going out for Valentine’s day? You should! Or are you just going to stay home and play with your cute boy here.”

“Sort of, yeah.” I reply.

“Well, if you’re interested, I’ll give you my number anyway if you want to do something some other time.”

“That’s a good idea.” And finally I’m like, dude, danna – just freaking tell her. Just tell her. This charade could go on forever and every freaking time this happens you feel like shit. Tell her!

“Umm, actually,” I begin, “There’s no way you would have known this, but my husband passed away this past summer.” She looked up from writing her number on a piece of paper, her face stunned.

“Oh my God.”

“Yeah. But, I do go out a lot with friends, so maybe sometime I could use a sitter.” Of course, inside, I’m thinking… ‘I have Annie and I have susan and Taylor and Michelle – no need for another sitter, but I’ll humor her.’

So, that’s it. Done. Finally the girl knows.


5 years ago today...

So, five years ago right now, I was on a plane to Miami with Mike.

On Friday Feb 1, 2002, he allegedly had a doctor’s appointment in the city, so we made plans to do lunch near my office at Penn. Around noon he called my cell phone and told me he was out front and that I should bring my backpack.

“My backpack? Why my backpack?”

Mike sighed, “Just bring your backpack.”

The joke for years was that in those 2 minutes between getting the call and getting into the car, I imagined that Mike had bought me a puppy as a birthday gift (my birthday is February 5) and that he was going to give it to me to put in my backpack. Is this completely illogical? Yes. But, it’s where my fertile imagination took me.

So, I get in the car and start blabbering on and on about my day. Time passes and suddenly I realize we’re on the bridge that goes towards the airport.

“Where are we going?” I asked, looking around.

Mike told me to look in the glove compartment. In it were two e-tickets to Miami.

“Happy Birthday, Smoosher,” he said with a grin.

As legend has it, my response… which I repeated for about a minute straight was, “Shut the f*ck up. Shut the f*ck up.”

Lovely, huh? I’m a real lady.

Then I proceeded to grill Mike about all my school commitments and meetings I couldn’t miss (response: “I’ve called all your professors and they know you’ll be gone.”). Then about the schoolwork I had to complete before the following week (response: “Your officemate and I were in touch and she slipped all those files into your backpack.”). “But, I can’t go to Florida! I don’t have shorts or a bathing suit… or anything!” (response: “Your suitcase is in the back seat. I packed it all.”)

Apparently, I then asked him about every individual item of toiletries: facewash? “Got it.” Contact lens solution? “Got it.” Birth control pills? “Got them.” Glasses? “They’re in there.”

Holy crap, right?

So, we fly to Miami and he has a convertible waiting for us. We drive to Key Largo and check in at the most charming little resort (Largo Lodge) where we have a little thatched-roof cabin a short walk from the water.

The next day we walked on beaches and sat in the sun. Before heading out to dinner, he suggested we walk down to the pier and watch the sun set (see photo at left). We watched it set while holding hands. As soon as the orange sun disappeared, I hopped up off the lounge chair, “Ok! Time for dinner!”

“Wait. Smoosher…. Can we just sit here a minute?” He actually seemed nervous. He never seemed nervous. Ever.

My stomach turned inside out. I knew what was coming. We had talked about getting married forever. My mom had given me her mother’s engagement ring which I then gave to Mike for him to have reset when the time was right. So, I always knew it was an imminent possibility, but it was still surreal.

He got down on his knees and asked if I would “give him the honor of being called my husband.”

I just nodded and cried.

And that, my friends is the only time in 15 years that Mike Young missed watching the Superbowl with college buddies Frank and Matt.

Instead, he and I watched it from a tiki bar in Key West (see photo taken by our waitress at right -- notice Mike was still sporting the gold hoop... ah... those early days...)

So, this Sunday, Bax and I will join Frank, Matt, and their families for the Superbowl once again. And, my hunch is that Mike will be there, too.

Oddly enough, I'm not super-sad thinking about this. I laugh when I picture Mike retelling this story to our friends and mocking me for thinking he had bought me a puppy ("A puppy???"). I smile when I think about him being nervous - if even for a moment - just before he asked me. Most of all, the trip was so important that I remembered every detail of everything we did - so when I let my memory drift back to it, I'm with my best friend again - if only for a moment.

Mike made a fantastic mix CD that we listened to our entire five days in the keys. I found it on his powerbook:

Annie Waits, Ben Folds
Lava Lamp, Duran Duran
Stupidly Happy, XTC
Beautiful Day, U2
Everybody's Talkin' , Harry Nilsson
Human, Pretenders
Man of Constant Sorrow, Soggy Mountain Boys
Stuck in the middle with you, Stealers Wheel
Whole New You, Shawn Colvin
Pink Moon, Nick Drake
Do What You Have To Do, Sarah McLachlan
Anywhere But Here, k.d. lang
Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
I've Been Waiting, Matthew Sweet
Lust For Life, Iggy Pop