Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where Will I Go to Make My Soup, or, Thoughts on a Train

I have been thinking a lot lately about how quickly everything can change. Tunisia, Egypt, Japan, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain. . .one minute, people were living their lives as they had been for years, and the next minute, chaos, fear, violence, uncertainty, seemingly out of nowhere.

This morning I got up with Miss M. and let T lie in bed a bit longer, as I often do. I fed her a yogurt. I made the coffee. We watched cartoons. He got them both dressed, and I kissed them goodbye as they left for a jog. I showered, got dressed, put on jewelry and makeup. I gathered my things and I put on my coat. I double checked my pockets and I left the house. I was on my way to the train station, on my way to a meeting. It was an ordinary morning in every way. For me.

In some other place, a man that I do not know also woke up this morning. Or maybe he did not. Maybe he never fell asleep last night. Maybe he sat all night and watched the clock and waited for this morning. Maybe he sat deep in thought. Maybe he didn't think at all. Did he shower today, like me? Did he pick out what he was wearing, ever so carefully? Was he, too, on his way to a meeting? I don't know.

When I left the house, I briefly considered which route to take to the train station. I'd almost taken an earlier train, then decided that this later one left me enough time to get where I was headed. But of course, I left the house a few minutes later than I should have, and now with traffic I wasn't sure that I would make my train at all. I chose a route, and ran the last bit through the station. I got on the train with 5 minutes to spare. Success.

And him, that man that I do not know, he must've set off for the train station, as well. Or perhaps he had nowhere to go today, and simply ended up there. Perhaps he drove around, trying to sort out his life, and made the decision. Maybe he was simply going about his ordinary day, too. Did he get there early? Did he choose his train? Did he contemplate his options? Did he think about the lone person, a child really, who would see him there, on the platform? Did he think about all of us, on that train that I was on? Did he simply want to be on someone's radar one last, one final time? Did he just want to matter? Did he just want someone to notice him, even for one horrible moment?

After I got on my train, I found my seat, then sorted through my work and checked my Blackberry. I glanced through my text messages. I started to read the last bits I wanted to take in before my meeting. After the train started, I didn't look out the window at the world outside. I never saw the man. Twenty minutes after I got on my train this morning, while I was lost in my reading, I felt a sudden deceleration in the train. The acrid smell of brake dust filled the air. The high speed rail took a very long time to stop after the conductor applied the brakes. We were nowhere near a platform.

The man who I did not know jumped in front of my train. He died.

As I sat stuck on the train for hours this afternoon after it happened, as they tended to him then investigated his death, I couldn't help think of the hundreds of people on that train, and how every one of them was losing a few hours of their life due this man who'd just lost his life. Then I began to wonder: what would have happened if we had all known that this was about to happen? Would each one of us, each person on that train, have given him those same hours we spent stuck on that train with him dead, to save him? If we had all banded together, I'll bet we collectively wasted 450 hours stuck on that train, waiting for investigators to arrive, sort out, fiddle about, uncouple, recouple, reroute, etc. If we had been able to get to him in life, abided with him for those same 450 hours, given him advice and warm meals and listened to his stories, counseled him and cried with him and worked to ease his suffering, could we have helped him find his way again? Could we have kept him from making that terrible decision? In death, we all gave hours to this man we did not know. Could we have given them in life? More importantly, shouldn't we have given them in life?

If you know that there is a payment that will be extracted from you, willingly or not, it would make sense to make the payment at a time when you might actually be able to do some good, right? Yet, we all know that there are so many bad things going on in the world, yet we are so busy with our work and our reading and our Blackberries that we don't often find the time to help like maybe we should. If there was a chance my fellow passengers and I could have saved the man by making him soup and counseling him, I hope we would have all done it, rather than have him die and waste our day stuck on a train that had run out of sandwiches. But, and this is critical, I think: we each COULD be making metaphorical soup for the many ills of the world, long before those ills are standing on metaphorical train platforms thinking of jumping. That's what today made me realize.

Which brings me back to Tunisia and Egypt and Japan and Libyan and Yemen and Bahrain, and really, every small corner of any community that finds itself in crisis. If every one of us just take tiny steps to interconnect as global citizens, by donating money or making a new international blog friend or dropping off groceries to the new immigrant down the street who doesn't speak English or standing up to hate when we hear it in our communities, we improve the world in a small but powerful way. Think of the power of it, if every person did. If every person on the train gives their time before the man jumps off the platform in front of the speeding train, we might be able to stop the man from even standing on the platform and contemplating jumping. I wonder how quickly we could make the world change for the better.

Monday, March 21, 2011

From My Last Read to My Current Read to My Current Worry

Maybe I should add an addendum to my review of Mel's book, Life From Scratch, which glowingly notes that I was able to understand the general premise at some point during the first 50 pages. Which I only mention because during the first 50 pages of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I picked the book up in a train station, in need of something to read, and I still haven't seen any reviews, and the back cover summary is basically silent about the plot (it talks about 3 friends who meet at boarding school, and some terrible secret), so I literally know nothing about the book. I'm now at around page 80, and I have some thoughts about what the book MIGHT be about, but still. . .it might also be about something entirely different. It's really weird. I can't say that I've ever gotten this far into a book and had so little understanding of what I was reading. I think that's in part because the usual practice is to summarize the plot on the back of the book, which this book didn't do. I must say, it's distracting me from the story. I am constantly stopping to say "what the hell is this book about," or going back to re-read earlier portions to see if my evolving working hypothesis actually works, in light of some of the clues found in earlier chapters.

I've obviously read books that have gone in different directions than anticipated, but this isn't like that. This is like. . .there is an entire subtext that I am missing. Living in Europe, there is often a subtext that I am missing, so at first I thought it was just ordinary cultural dissonance because it's set in England. Like, I thought I just didn't understand what a "carer" was, or what a "donor" was. But now I am thinking it's a bit more complicated than my usual American-in-Paris problem.

But if you know, please don't tell me, because it is such an extraordinary experience, and I want to continue to view the book through this lense until I've finished it. And then perhaps re-read it, to see what I think of it once I do know what's going on.

Even now, at the point where I have no idea what the hell is going on, there is so much sadness in the book, and I have to say, it pairs nicely with my current neuroses. I have been worrying lately, probably needlessly so, but since it generally makes me feel better to spit it out so I can move on, you might want to watch your feet. . .

Miss M has always been a petite baby. She has generally been at around the 50 percentile for height, and was 10-20 percentile for weight until she started walking at 10 months, at which point, she fell off the chart for weight. The doctor started having her come in once a month to check her weight, and she has more or less continued to gain weight on the same trajectory since falling off the chart (I mean, at the same rate)--just at a level which is off the chart. But in the last month, while she gained a pound, she didn't grow in height. Although, T. pointed out that they measure her height by drawing a pencil line above and below her while she lays on the exam table, which isn't an exact science with an active toddler. Except, I don't think she's grown. She's still in the 12 month footie jammies at 14 months, and she's got room lengthwise.
The doctor thinks she's fine. Developmentally, she is doing very well, and near the top of what one would expect for a baby her age. I have no worries there. But physically, while the doctor doesn't think there is a problem, he would like us to get a second opinion, and has referred us to someone.

I am worried. I know there is no reason to be at this point, but something is just nagging away at me. I just feel like something is off. I was fine until this last month--I thought it was all attributable to her petite size and her finite appetite. But the doctor referring us out has freaked me out. Well that, and people commenting about her tiny size constantly. I hope I am just being my usual neurotic self. I can't even fathom the thought of anything happening to her. She's such a huge part of my universe.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick & Dirty Book Review: Life From Scratch, by Melissa Ford

Tired, sad, in need of a hug? Need a little "you" time? Go make yourself a cup of tea (or even better, pour yourself a glass of wine!), run a hot bath, and download Melissa Ford's Life From Scratch via Kindle. Lock the bathroom door, sink into your tub, and read away. (Yeah, I know--electronics weren't made for the tub. But what's a girl to do?) I promise you, it's just what you need to give yourself a little lift.

The book is perfect chick lit. The basic premise is that Rachel gets divorced, Rachel gets sad, Rachel cooks, Rachel blogs, Rachel dates, etc. In some ways it's your standard chick lit fodder. The joy is in the details with Life From Scratch, though. You like Rachel. It's fun to read about what she's doing. You actually start to care about her. The approach is great. It's a fresh, fun, fast read. And if you are like me, you end up really pissed at author Melissa Ford for ending the book where she does. Rumor has it she's writing a sequel, though, so we'll soon learn what happens to Rachel after that.

There is scant detail here, I know, but the joy of this one is in grabbing it off the shelf when you need a good, fast, light read and piggishly downing it in a sitting or two. So, what are you waiting for?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mostly Sunny With a Chance of Showers

I have had a day.

It was the job. I have a hard one here. It's not hard in the same way that my old job was hard--it's not intense intellectual lifting or grinding long days or any of the million things that made my last job hard. It's hard because people here are skeptical of me, or think ill of me for whatever reason, before I even step foot through the door. They think ill of me simply due to my affiliation with the company I represent. They don't like me, without even knowing me. That, in itself, makes this enormously tiring on some days. Sometimes I feel like I'm finished before I've even started. Don't get me wrong--some days I make fantastic connections with foreign counterparts. Usually, even when I disagree with my foreign contacts, we have great conversation, and we can agree to disagree. Today was not one of those days, though.

Today was one of those days where I constantly worried if I was offending anyone inadvertently, and when I wasn't worried about that, I was worried about the fact that the people in the meetings with me wanted nothing to do with me. I literally had two different meetings today where the best thing that I can say is that they politely tolerated me. I got frozen, polite smiles, but could mostly tell that they were just. . .so. . .skeptical. It's hard to have a conversation when the other person won't even meet you halfway, isn't open to that communication.

Thankfully, though, it is Friday! I'm kind of thinking I need a day to veg on the couch (tomorrow), and then maybe I'll zip away for a quick overnight Sunday. I've been doing a ton of traveling lately for work, but I haven't been out to play much. I think it's time! I need to shake off today's bad mojo in time for more big meetings on Monday. And I just need to laugh. We took the babe to an indoor playgym last weekend, and I just had a blast watching her explore and discover and enjoy new things. It was just soooooo much fun. There's a zoo not far from here that has parts where you can watch the penguins from under water. I think she'll get a kick out of that.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Part Two

My husband has reminded me that I am also an asshat sometimes. It's good to keep things in perspective. He's right.

The visit has gone fine for the last few bits. I've tried to have a bit
more patience. So far, so good. Miss M is enjoying them, and that's all that matters.

And now, I'm off to bed-busy day tomorrow, and I'm exhausted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little Rant

I am currently holed up in my guest room with the baby, under the guise that I am dressing one of us. I am in my guestroom because my MIL is visiting, and my master suite is easier for her to get around, so we gave up our room. I am currently hiding here because I need to vent.

We have had many visitors since we've been here, and while not all of them have been easy, they have all been interested and appreciative. They've all been happy to be here. They've all been nice, and positive. Needless to say, that's not how I'm finding THIS visit. She explicitly informed us yesterday that she was only here to see the baby (T apparently doesn't rate a visit). She's been here for four days, but has 't bothered to take her camera out once (apparently, pictures of Miss M aren't all that important to her). I was just treated to a discussion of how Ireland (the only other European country she has visited) is more advanced than this country because there, she could use her curling iron from the US (my explanation of voltage differences with the US fell on deaf ears, as did my mention of the fact that the reason her American curling iron worked in Ireland was likely due to the fact that she stayed in hotels catering to Americans, which have hardwired to accommodate for both voltage and plug differences).

Everything is just so NEGATIVE. And the irritating thing is that she thinks she is a really positive person.

Sigh. Just a few more days...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teeth Make Me Tired

We recently had a bunch of nights in a row where Miss M actually slept through the night. It was lovely, but honestly, with all of the teething she's been through it's been so long since she slept solidly that I kept waking up, thinking something was wrong. Consequently, I got no sleep. The last two nights, however, she woke a ton. As she just hung upside down off of me, screaming, I discovered why: she's teething. . .again. A tooth has just broken through on the top. Those top ones sure are hard to spot! It must be why she's been uncomfortable. Sadly, no sign of the other one on the other side. Guess I have some more sleepless nights ahead of me!

I still don't know what happened to my friend's baby. At first I thought she found out her baby had died, but now I get the sense that the baby may have been born, but didn't survive. It's not the kind of thing you ask, and the emails I've gotten from her haven't made it clear. Either way, total suckage. She is, obviously, devastated. I am still casting about to find the right thing to do to memorialize her baby's life, but I did manage to do something productive in the meantime. This is one of the things that distance makes so hard. How do you be there for someone when you're not there? After some searching, I found a grocery store that would deliver to her neighborhood, and I ordered a pile of "kid food" for her toddler. That way, at least, they have some easy meals to feed the poor child while they try to get their legs back under them.

It all reminds me how fragile everything is. It makes me stress about being pregnant again, too. Everything went well with Miss M's pregnancy and delivery, and in some ways it feels like tempting fate to even think about getting pregnant again. Could it possibly go that well a second time? Every time I see a bad outcome, I can't help but think that it could be me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Worst Kind of News

I got the most awful email today from an old friend. She was pregnant and very near her due date, and just learned that her baby has died. They think a virus is to blame. I am completely devastated for them. She is an amazing person, and it was rotten of the universe to do this to her family.

I would like to do something kind for her, something thoughtful. If you have any suggestions for a newly babylost mama, for newly babylost parents, please send them my way.