Monthly Archives: May 2007

My Other Self

Twice in this past year, I have left Chicago for the Bay Area. For various reasons, I have come alone on both trips. These have been substantially different trips than the one in which the four of us came out here together at Christmas. (Remember that one?)

Each time I’ve come, I’ve run into this fascinating woman. I have begun to refer to her as my Other Self. This woman, who looks startlingly like me and is my very age, still lives here in California. She is unattached, has no children, and zips around town in a cute little green Prius rather than a beat-up green Legacy. My Other Self is quite busy with her private practice but still has time for lunch with friends, movies, and reading the newspaper. When her watch battery dies, she can stop somewhere and replace it in an afternoon; she doesn’t understand why such a task might take me 2 months to complete. She even – gasp! – gets to go out for a run every morning. I’ll bet she even goes to the gym regularly, although she doesn’t have the heart to tell me this.

She walks around Stow Lake with her friend Barbra, finding the new baby herons way up in the trees and watching in amazement as one flies awkwardly right overhead. She goes to Arizmendi Bakery for some coffee and a scone, and then later meets her friend and colleague Liesl to see her new flat and have lunch with more friends. She gets to spend a few hours on a Saturday with her grandmother. She spends long, uninterrupted stretches of time with her parents, sometimes at home and sometimes in the hospital; but wherever they are, she can be with them, available to help when needed.

My Other Self can read for hours before falling asleep and on weekends can sleep until she wakes up on her own and read some more. I am awed by the fact that her life – her pace – is her own.

There are times when I really envy this Other Self her apparent freedom. And yet I know I would not prefer her life. My Other Self is watching as her friends are marrying and having their first babies. She is yearning for a partner to come home to, who is smart and funny and responsible and sweet AND will also handle the entire household for a week so that she can help her parents. She doesn’t know, but suspects, that there is more to children than dirty diapers and sleep deprivation. My Other Self can only guess at the joy of early morning cuddles, brothers holding hands in the backseat of the car, and screams of “Mommy!!” whether she is just home from work or simply out of the shower. She won’t know how much she would love living again in a place where time is marked by four distinct seasons, the fun of playing with kids at the beach down the street or in the snow, how happy the autumn leaves would make her.

No, I am glad for the path I have chosen. But my Other Self continues to exist for me here and I love to visit her periodically; for the recharge, but also for the reminder of all that I have.

Some Thoughts on Prognosis

No, this is not about my father! (But he’s doing quite well. You can read about that here.)

I was asked to write about how I talk to parents about prognosis for their children. It’s up tonight over at The Family Room blog: click here if you’d like to read it.

Notes from California

I woke with a start at 5:30, thanks to mild jet lag. My mind was immediately flooded with thoughts of yesterday: the waiting, the difficulty of seeing my father right out of surgery, awake and in so much pain. The wave of relief upon seeing him a few hours later, sitting up and talking to us, the pain more manageable. When I turned over in my parents’ guest room bed, I was facing my father’s desk. His Starbucks tea cup stood to the right of his computer where he had placed it Tuesday afternoon.

I remember when he walked into the house that afternoon, fresh from the hair salon where he’d gotten his pre-surgery crew cut. I hadn’t seen him since Christmas, not a glimpse of him through his chemo and radiation treatments or during his hospitalization for heart issues, and wasn’t sure what to expect. He looked terrific: fit and healthy. However, he was uncharacteristically quiet, having been through his pre-op appointment that morning and then an eye-opening visit with the pulmonologist; while his lungs were in tip-top shape, the doctor had given him a more long-term view of his recovery period (perhaps more realistic) than what he’d received from the surgeon. I imagined that the step-by-step description of the surgery would have been harder to handle the day before surgery than it was months earlier. I tried not to look at that Starbucks cup because to me it was fraught with meaning. I could imagine him stopping in for some chai, knowing that in less than 24 hours he would be recovering from surgery and unable to eat or drink for the next five days. And his favorite chai might not be on the menu for quite some time. I can’t bring myself to throw out that cup.


7:30 AM found me heading out my parents’ front door into a sunny California morning. I popped in my iPod, scrolling down to find Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha as I walked down the path in my shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes. I love this new album and in particular the second track “Imitosis”, which I listened to twice.

I lived in the Bay Area for 9 years and have only been in Chicago for 11 months. And yet the vegetation – the eucalyptus and palm trees, the flowers, even the ground cover – already looks as foreign to me as it did when I first arrived here in 1997. The plants and trees of Chicago more closely resemble those of my childhood and early adulthood in New England and Minnesota. But the scent of the air here, it’s herbal. It smells like nowhere else to me and reminded me this morning of so many hikes in the Marin Headlands and Glen Park Canyon, of this place that was home for a long while.


As I made my way along the wide street up here in the hills of San Carlos, I looked at the stunning view of the Bay and thought about things. I was considering the idea of the Wonderwheel, or Ferris Wheel, as a metaphor for life, and how it captures the never-ending ups and downs but doesn’t account for those moments in life when the universe plucks you out of your gracefully rising or falling swinging seat and drops you onto that other ride, the one that I literally cannot stomach: the roller coaster. You know, when life is on cruise control until the phone rings with bad news or the doctor gives you a shocking diagnosis. Like cancer of the esophagus. And suddenly the floor gives out beneath you and you are on a ride, a faster, more aggressive, sometimes panicky ride where the highs and lows are so much higher and lower and also come rapidly, leaving you feeling out of control.

I have watched as friends and family have each handled my father’s cancer in their own ways. Most of us have dealt with it without having to get on the roller coaster, at least not for more than a few hours or a day here and there, and I’d say that even my father himself has managed to stay off the roller coaster a good bit of the time. On Tuesday evening I felt like I was seeing him on the roller coaster car, starting to make its way to the top of the rise – you know, where you can already start to feel your stomach lurch in fear before the drop – and yet he appeared to command the inner strength to find his center again, stand up, and demand that the ride be stopped. He was plucked off and placed back on the Wonderwheel where he calmly rode down, all the way down to the lowest point, knowing that once he got down there, there was nowhere to go but up.

California, Here I Come

Well, I’m off to California. You wouldn’t believe how many people think of a trip to California as a fun vacation, even after you’ve told them that you’re going because your father is having surgery on Wednesday and you’ll be helping your mother. I just don’t see how a week spent at Stanford Hospital is a vacation, but I guess I can have the car windows down on my way from the house to the hospital so – presto! – insta-vacation! Two people waved to me on their way out of the clinic today saying, “Have a great time! Have fun!”

But, ahem, here in the REAL WORLD, I leave tomorrow. My Dad’s pre-op appointments are tomorrow and then we take him to the hospital at the crack of dawn on Wednesday. He will, we hope, be released to go home right around the time I come home next Tuesday. I will be updating his blog as often as I can, so if you don’t hear from me here, look for me over there. (And if you know Matt, please give him a call or drop him a line and give him props for all that he’ll be doing on his own with the kids for the upcoming 8 days!)

Thanks for all your well-wishes, prayers, and good thoughts. It all helps.

Orange You Glad the Walk is Over?

Guess what? I’m not asking for money anymore!!

The Walk was a big success. Thanks to so many of you for donating! Our team raised almost $50,000 for autism research (at last count), and donations keep trickling in, so it may well be more. We were the #1 team! Chicago brought in well over 1 million dollars total. It was a great time, despite the fact that it was 40 degrees colder than yesterday. Yesterday: 83 Today: 43. Not so good for being outside for a few hours, but we managed. (Note to self: next year, you can put the winter gloves and hats away in late May, but be sure they are accessible in the storage room. Ahem.)

It was wonderful to see so many of the families I work with and some colleagues out there today. I am constantly impressed with the depth of connections within the community of special needs families and professionals here in Chicago; it is completely different from the Bay Area! It meant a lot to me to be present with them and to have my own family there supporting their families. And the boys loved the bounce houses.

The highlight of my day was being bear-hugged, kissed, and told “I love you!!” (repeatedly!) by three family members of one of my clients before I’d even found out how they were related to her. Now that rules.

Real Simple

Spotted on my kitchen counter tonight:

A big, huge mess, including such items as

– 1 swim diaper
– 1 Little People dog that is required to talk to Lyle when he uses the potty
– Today’s unopened newspaper
– My planner
– 6 small nails, which I assume have something to do with the piece of IKEA furniture Matt started to assemble yesterday
– A wedding invitation
– An old, broken baseball cap
– Piles of paperwork from Baxter’s school that I should be dealing with right now
– A random cookbook I got from my local Dominick’s grocery store today. (Turns out, if you donate $5 towards breast cancer research, you get your very own cook book just chock full of great recipes — collected from those who work at Dominick’s! Wow! Listen up Dominick’s: just because someone works at the grocery store does not make him a kitchen god. Think Al’s Artichoke Dish, JP’s Cheese Ball, and John Paleologeous’ Watermelon Kicks. Now I don’t know what Watermelon Kicks are, but you’d better believe I’m going to find out. I’ll let you know. Better yet, come on over, and I’ll make ’em for you.)

But the best part of all this is that I just noticed a Real Simple magazine that I bought at Dominick’s today, promising to de-clutter and simplify my life, perched ironically on top of the mess.

As. If.


Why is it that I can already picture this child in high school??

(But I have to admit: I’d want to hang out with him.)

Last Chance!

Okay, readers, we have just two days left before the Autism Speaks/Cure Autism Now fund raising walk! Our team, the Wiggle Walkers, is only $2,000 away from being not only the biggest fund raising team in Chicago this year, but the biggest in the nation! If each of us just drums up $25 more dollars, we’ve got it made.

Who’s in?

Donate here.


Why We Don’t Vacation

I always knew there must be a good reason my family doesn’t take those “vacation” things everyone else raves about. I just needed Strollerderby to explain it to me!

Me and My Shadow

As the quintessential baby brother, Lyle will often imitate exactly what Baxter is saying (to the best of his ability, given that half the time he’s trying to say names of obscure Pokemon characters).

By some stroke of luck on our part, this does not bother Baxter. When he even notices it, he thinks it’s funny. We like to say that we don’t have a family pet, we have a family echo.

This afternoon in the car, Lyle was going strong, parroting everything Baxter said in a loud, excited voice. Baxter actually noticed. He said, “Mommy, I don’t think we have enough furniture in this car!” I could tell he was trying to make a joke, but I wasn’t getting it at all. Are you?

“There’s such a big echo, we must need more furniture in here to absorb the sound!!”