Oct 31, 2013

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Today is Halloween - one of my most favorite of holidays.  However, my small midwestern town will not be having trick or treating today because it’s... rainy.

61 degrees and rainy.

Not typhoon-type rainy.  Not a little thing that we like to call Thundersleet.  Not even bolts of lightning.  We have what could best be called a case of the drizzles.  And the high winds that our police chief was concerned about? Well, my house is five blocks from Lake Michigan and the trees outside are barely moving.

Talk about your nanny-state.  Jeesh.

I am a child of the 70s.  My parents kicked me out of the house as soon as it was trick or treating time -- snowsuit stuffed under the costume they bought for under $5 at Ben Franklin’s and a mask I couldn’t see out of, pillowcase in hand.  I traveled from house to house in my neighborhood and beyond and didn’t return until (a) 10 o’clock or (b) the pillowcase got too heavy to carry.  Oh, and I ate homemade popcorn balls and candied apples without first checking them for razor blades.  It’s hard to believe, but I’m still alive.

As a kid, I went trick or treating in snow, rain, blizzard, and occasionally (although it didn’t happen often) halfway decent weather.  I mean, it’s candy and people are just giving. it. away. For FREE!  I didn’t care if it was thundersleeting with temperatures hovering around 33 degrees and I was being chased by zombies - I was going outside and not coming home for HOURS.  And nothing horrible or tragic happened beyond a belly ache and some wet clothes.

I have taken my kids trick or treating in similar kinds of weather.  When I lived in Minnesota, they had two costumes - the one to wear to school, and the one made out of polar fleece to wear Halloween night.  And, holy crap! They’re still alive too.

I mean, honestly. It’s raining. Barely. And they canceled trick or treating because the powers that be think the weather might be better tomorrow.  For crying out loud people... we live in MICHIGAN. Where it can be 75 degrees one minute and a blizzard the next.  You can’t predict this stuff.

To make things even more confusing (and worse, to be honest) our city postponed the trick or treating, but the outlying townships (that are less than a handful of miles from my house in the center of the city) still have it goin’ on... and the farm town 8 miles east is a complete go.

What are we, Ludvillians? Wimps? Sugarplums? Do we believe that we’re going to melt from a little rain?  

So, here’s my message to Police Chief Burnett:
This is MY Halloween.  These are MY children. And it should be MY choice weather or not (pun intended) I take my children out for the holiday.  And you, sir, are whatever Halloween’s version of Scrooge is.  Parents have taken time off work to take their kids trick or treating and can’t now because you felt the need to protect us all from some light precipitation.  It’s ridiculous.  Especially considering no one else in any of the surrounding areas felt it was necessary and it’s what a lot of people are calling a clusterf... well... you get the picture.
This is embarrassing.

Oct 25, 2013


It happened today.  Today was the day I had to tell my children that one of their peers, a boy they knew from acting class, liked, and considered a “buddy”, died tragically in a car accident. And despite the fact that our family is more versed in the ideas of death and dying than the average, I was not prepared for this.  We were not prepared for this.

I don’t believe you can prepare for this.

Reading his pocket bible before class. Photo by Anesa Beilfuss
Garrett turned 11 years old today.  Yes, it was his birthday.  And while, no matter what, an 11 year old dying is simply awful - the idea that he died on his birthday makes it so much more painful.  So much more gut wrenching.  Because I can’t get away from the thought that, instead of planning a birthday party with balloons and cake, Garrett’s mother is planning a funeral. 

When I was talking to Quinn, this seemed to make things so much worse.  So we talked about how great birthday mornings usually are: you get to pick what you want for breakfast, and you maybe get to bring treats to school, and maybe everyone has to be nice to you, and you have presents and games and fun to look forward to. So we decided that Garrett went to school today with a smile and happy thoughts. And we are going to hold that in our hearts and not think about his last moments. We hope his last thoughts were good ones. We pray that they were. We cannot allow ourselves to fathom any alternative.

My kids knew Garrett from acting class.  He was a bright, sensitive, adorable kid that Quinn took to right away.  Quinn doesn’t take to a lot of people, but perhaps it was their shared love of all things zombie that bonded them.  Garrett, I’m told, wrote a hilarious skit about how zombies shouldn’t be feared - they are simply misunderstood. It ended with Garrett commenting that he was hungry, and then exclaiming, “Oh look! A fat guy!” and running off-stage.  I’m not exactly sure that I got the whole story, because my almost 13-year-old who refuses to cry about anything, was sobbing so hard it was difficult to understand him. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to make it better.

When Quinn was five, his beloved great-uncle passed away suddenly late on Christmas day. We had spent the day with Great Uncle Ken and the rest of the family, and I thought it would be a difficult concept for Quinn to process - that one moment Uncle Ken was there, and the next he wasn’t (Claire, at three, was oblivious).  

When I sat down to explain to Quinn, a cherubic five year old, how his adored Uncle Ken had passed on, the first death in the family for Quinn... he began to smile.  I was concerned that my abnormally bright son was just not quite grasping the idea of death and dying, worried that he was confused, having just seen “the Greats” the night before, so the words tumbled out faster. Quinn smiled brighter. And brighter. Eventually, I ran out of words, and breathlessly asked him if he understood what I was saying.

Quinn, with the most beautiful smile on his dimpled face said, “Yeah! Now I have an angel in Heaven who knows me!”

I reminded Quinn of that story tonight. And he remembered. And he looked up, and said, “Hey Garrett. I’m not going to kill zombies in Minecraft anymore. Because maybe you’re right, and they’re all just misunderstood.”

Rest in peace, sweet boy. You will be missed.

Oct 18, 2013


From that moment, nearly a year ago, as I sat in a sterile doctor’s office waiting to hear news I somehow instinctively knew was going to be bad, to the moment in another doctor’s office today, this journey has never been easy.  

We have received multiple diagnoses (lesions on the brain, intracranial vascular disease, Moyamoya) to multiple prognoses (great, good, not so good), and it’s definitely been up and down.  

Today was just another day in our new version of normal.

First, let me say, Claire is doing well.  Surprisingly well. Remarkably well.  Curiously well.  You see, Claire’s surgery is not working yet.  So the new neurosurgeon that we met with today... well... he’s a bit perplexed at how great Claire is doing.

Wanna know something? It never feels good when you read your surgeon’s body language as “perplexed”.  Just an FYI.

Now surgeons - they are a rare breed.  They never, never like to admit their work is anything less than successful.  NEVER.  So even if the surgery is only making stuff work, say, 5% better than it was before surgery... they still consider that a success.  So, Claire’s surgery is still considered “successful” - but when you pin them down, they will admit, it’s not very successful. At least, not yet.  But all indications are the indirect bypass Claire had in December will work... someday.  So we are going to focus on that.  It will work... someday.

The fact that Claire continues to have TIAs (also known as mini strokes) isn’t unusual, but it’s not the best news in the world.  The fact she is doing so incredibly well despite them is pretty great news.  And we are going to focus on that.  She is doing well, in spite of.

Today was spent discussing “options”.  There are a few of them, but I can’t say as I like any of them. Neither did the surgeon.  So, we are going to wait and see what her next MRI study shows in December (which we hope shows progress), or until she starts having more TIAs (which we hope she won’t), or until they are more severe (which we hope never happens).

It was scary for a few minutes there, as the doctor looked concerned, as he laid out our options, and as he answered our questions.  Then, right in the thick of it -  when I was trying to swallow past the growing lump in my throat - Claire reached over, grabbed my hand, squeezed it and gave me a smile. And I realized...

She’s good.

So I am okay.  We are okay.  Because, while I don’t have faith in much anymore, I have faith in my Warrior Princess.

She’s got this.