Remembering Mom

Quality Time

One year ago today, my mother died after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She had dodged breast cancer bullets a couple of times … well, not really dodged so much as taken them in the chest. But this time the bullet was a shotgun shell to her abdomen full of twelve gauge tumor pellets. Her doctors performed surgery, but with so many tiny tumors the odds of getting all the cancer weren’t good.

After surgery, the chemotherapy made Mom’s life a waking nightmare of nausea and weakness and pain. This was her fourth round of chemo, and since it wasn’t working all that well — not buying her much time — she made the conscious choice to stop treatment.


We all knew that this decision meant her time was short, but we hoped that her quality of life would be higher during what remained. And she did have a few relatively ‘normal’ months before the deterioration overtook her.

I was not prepared for how heartbreaking it would be to see the shell of someone who had once been so vibrant and full of energy. But even so, I am grateful that I and the kids got the chance to see her several times at the end of her life, and to say goodbye.

Most healthy young people conceive of life as being constant until it ends abruptly. And sometimes it does, but sometimes a life withers away, and the older I get, the more I start thinking of how long I’ll be healthy enough to do the things I love.

I’ve started thinking of life in terms of quality time left, of how long I can stave off attrition. How long will I be able to play soccer? How many more times will I be able to go hiking with my kids? When will I lose my mental sharpness and become unable to write?

How much is three months of quality life worth? Or one month, or even a week?

I fully believe that Mom made the right decision. One year of vomiting isn’t better than three months of peace, but damn do I wish she’d had better choices.

Being Brave

Back in March of last year, Karawynn and the girls and I traveled to Yachats on the Oregon coast for Mom’s memorial service and the interment of her ashes. Even now, nearly a year later, I find it difficult to write about. I haven’t lost many people close to me, and I’m not sure I coped very well. But then again, does anyone?

Continue reading “Remembering Mom”

Ghosts of Christmas

In 2011, we made a conscious decision to have a frugal Christmas. This resulted in some unexpected benefits, and also unearthed some deep-seated emotions.

Christmas past

When I was growing up, Christmas was a big deal. It was an exciting and happy time for my siblings and myself. As a kid, I loved seeing the tree on Christmas morning with all the wrapped presents reflecting the tree lights. I liked making guesses about who they were for and what might be inside. I liked opening presents, and would be lying if I didn’t confess to being hyped about getting something awesome.

Christmas 2002 - Piles of Presents!
Christmas 2002: Piles of presents!

Our family exchanged gifts on a large scale — presents were both expensive and numerous. I’m not really sure why; our family wasn’t that well-off. My dad was a graduate student, then a post-doctoral researcher, then a rookie college professor. My mom had to work various service jobs to help support the family of five. We were lower-middle-class, I’d say.

My parents spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and a huge amount of effort on the celebration of Christmas. There was a fair amount of socializing (parties and dropping in on friends, or having them over), we went to midnight Mass, and had a big meal on Christmas day. But the main focus was on opening presents on Christmas morning. Continue reading “Ghosts of Christmas”

Look – Shiny New Site!

(with Matching Journal)

Welcome to my brand-spanking new website. Isn’t it gorgeous? And slick? Yeah, I think so, too.

How did this come to be? How did my simple little website transform into this aesthetic wonder and practical powerhouse?

In an effort of near-Sisyphean proportions, my partner and web guru extraordinaire—Karawynn Long—designed and coded it for me. Here’s the 100% complete and true story:

How I Got A New Website

(un-embellished version)

Me: I’m going to start blogging!

K: [snorts] Good one!

Me: No, I’m serious!

K: [stops laughing and gives me a skeptical look]

Me: Just because I’ve started blogging a half-dozen times before, doesn’t mean I’ll fail this time! This time I have a strategy.

K: Heh, I’m sure you do.

Me: I do! I’m going to write only about stuff that I’m passionate about.

K: But who’s going to read a blog that’s only about porn and soccer and crème brûlée?

Me: [pondering] Actually…

K: Don’t think about that too much.

Me: I meant topics like writing, editing, and publishing. About events in my life and their effect on me… about stoicism and sustainability.

K: Seriously, no crème brûlée?

Me: The problem is that my blog doesn’t match the rest of my site.

K: Yeah, that is a problem. I could fix that for you.

Me: I’d love that, but do you have the time?

K: [shrugs] Sure. I could use it as a portfolio piece.

Me: [who recognizes a good thing] Oh wow, that sounds… um… involved.

K: [after a few minutes of researching] Not a simple job, but I’ve got this. I’ll do a custom design for you. Might not be done by lunch though.

Me: Oh that’s okay. I can wait until dinner, no problem.

Continue reading “Look – Shiny New Site!”