Tuesday, September 28, 2010

But it's OK

I've had eight hours of sleep in the last two days. But it's OK.

Jewel was up all last night with a stuffy nose and possible fever. But it's OK.

I had to take a sick day to watch Jewel and take 3B to school while Mama went into work for meetings with existential ramifications. But it's OK.

Jewel developed white sores inside her mouth and a diaper rash today. But it's OK.

I nearly fell asleep in the rocking chair on the balcony, watching 3B play in his sand and water table. But it's OK.

Jewel threw her pacifier off the balcony at 6 a.m. this morning, when the sky was still black, with rainclouds scuttling across it. But it's OK.

After suffering on Friday and Monday morning, I encountered a rare moment of near-silence during my ride and heard that my back brakes had been rubbing. But it's OK. (And not just because once I fixed that, it felt like I had two extra gears.)

On Monday, 3B spent more time in time out than the 49ers will spend in the cellar this season. But it's OK.

On my last commute my bike pump fell off. Twice. But it's OK.

It's all OK because on Monday, 3B started peeing in the potty, and he hasn't stopped since. OK, technically he pees in an old shampoo bottle half of the time...but he's on the potty when he does.

The bottle came about when...well, there was the...oh, never mind. Too long and boring a story in writing.

Back to the potty...this came about because we'd decided--and by "we," I know you know that I mean "the brains of the outfit," a.k.a. "Mama"--to get rid of diapers on Friday to force the issue. To start the week, Mama was having 3B sit on the potty every half hour and forcing him to wear underwear. He was fine with all that, but still wouldn't pee in the potty.

Until some point in the afternoon when he wanted to pee in the bath, which he was sharing with his sister. Mama told him he couldn't, that he'd have to get out and use the potty. His compromise was using the empty shampoo bottle--oh, look, I told you the story anyway--in the shower, which he did.

Then he was frustrated when he couldn't pee again right away. Mama explained to him how liquids become pee and he spent the rest of the day guzzling whatever he could get his hands on and peed a half-dozen times in the potty before I got home.

We've been able to prove that peeing directly in the potty is faster and easier than using the bottle half the time--especially when you have to bring the bottle to school in his backpack and tell his teacher about it, and so he's using direct deposit more regularly now.

And now Mama and I are walking around here with an extra spring in our steps, almost giddy. It's as if the wind shifted from head to tail; as if the grade is just as steep, but now downhill instead of up; or as if our brakes had been rubbing for four long years and now we know what it feels like to be free of that drag.


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Monday, September 13, 2010

My daughter broke my heart

Every day of the week that I was at Grammy's, I was the one to wake up with Jewel at 5 in the morning--or 4:30 on one day--and get her out of bed, fed and outside to swing, climb the ladder to the clubhouse and walk around until the rest of the house awakened.

When we returned home, I was still the one to get up with her for a few days because she would get up just a few minutes before I needed to get up to go to work. We would go out to the kitchen where I would make coffee for Mama and I, then some eggs and toast or waffles, which I would share with Jewel.

Yes, I really do get up that early every day for work. Now you know why I don't return your calls late at night. Or even early at night.

But one morning, Jewel slept in--if you can call sleeping past 5 a.m. sleeping in--and I snuck out of the room, which is no mean feat, since her crib is on my side of the bed, to make coffee and breakfast and start getting ready. A half-hour later, when Mama carried Jewel out, both squinting at the bright kitchen light, Mama explained that Jewel had sat up in her crib, looked around, pulled out her pacifier and said "Da da? Da da? Da da?"

And that's when my tiny, cold, dark heart broke.

So, if you're ever wondering how my day is going, remember that I started it with a broken heart because I broke my daughter's heart. That should give you some idea.


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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where I was

Nine years and one day ago, I woke up in the hotel in which Mohammed Atta would spend the next night before waking up and flying a plane into the World Trade Center.

I had just finished a bike ride from Montreal to Portland, Maine, to raise money for research into an AIDS vaccine that had not just renewed my faith in humanity, but raised it to a level higher than it had been at for a long time. Thousands of people set aside a week of their life to come together for the ride, having already spent months training and raising funds--all to help others.

The mood at the end of the ride was euphoric. We had all completed what seemed prior to that week an impossible feat to raise money for what was--and still is--and impossible feat. And we had done it together--cheering for each other, setting up each other's tents, encouraging each other through tough times and loaning each other shoulders to cry on when needed.

Along the way we were cheered by every community we rode through, and sometimes by folks standing in groups of two or three out by their houses. In one memorable case, an entire schoolhouse turned out, which was about 30 kids of all ages from grades K-6. Their school was in the middle of farm country, surrounded by fields, so they were the only people we saw for miles along the road, and there they stood, all day long, cheering each rider, waving their signs for hours.

I stopped to chat to them and was greeted like a hero. A sweaty, tired, sore-assed hero to me, but they didn't care about that.

And when we finished, I was greeted by (my then fiancee) Mama and her mom, who treated us to a delicious dinner and wonderful night in Portland. The next morning, as Mohammed Atta was picking up a co-conspirator and driving toward Portland, Mama and I got into our car with a fellow rider from DC. We drove all day to get back to DC, going by New York City at night, during a thunderstorm. Our car didn't have taillights, so my memories of the drive back are vivid, since I was gripped, especially through that storm.

I will never forget saying, "If it weren't for this storm, we could see New York across the river over there." I think my next sentence was something about the twin towers, but that memory isn't as clear, and I won't claim it because the events of the next day may well have placed it in my head.

After dropping off our passenger, Mama and I got back to our tiny basement apartment late at night. It might have even been past midnight, but we knew we could sleep through the next day to recover, after which I would return to my job on the back side of Capitol Hill and Mama would start her new job at HUD headquarters.

And sleep we did, having driven for over 12 hours after riding over 500 miles in under a week. However, our morning slumber was repeatedly interrupted by messages from Mom on our answering machine, and one from my sister. I couldn't quite hear what they were saying since the answering machine was in the living room, but I could hear references to New York and the World Trade Center.

I kept thinking, you know we live in DC, why are you calling about New York? After the third call from Mom, I got up and started listening to the messages. I didn't get through half of the first one before I was turning on the TV and picking up the phone to try calling Mom--but of course all the lines were tied up by then. And by then both towers had already fallen.

Yes, we slept through the whole thing.

And in the instant we saw those towers fall, all the faith in humanity and hope for the future that had built up inside me with each dollar donated, each pedal stroke, and each cheer from the roadside, disappeared.

What followed here in the DC area--the anthrax and sniper attacks--didn't help restore it any sooner. However, both 3B and Jewel have helped restore it. Watching them become themselves, I realize every day that we all start with such great potential for love, kindness, laughter and compassion that there's no reason to despair, only to work harder to uncover that potential in each of us.


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