This hopefully kicks off something I'm going to try to do every week - share some better than decent music to make Mondays just a bit more bearable. We'll see how it goes.
I went and saw Tift Merritt at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis last night. I had no idea if there was an opening band and didn't really care. I know this is a terrible way to be but after years of sitting through shows by people I've never heard before to get to the real deal I'm probably more jaded than I have the right to be. People like Ollabelle (who opened for Hem) are few and far between, let's just say.
We made it inside when Justin Jones was a couple of songs into his set and I'm so glad we weren't later than we were. He - honestly - has the best voice I've heard in a very long time, and writes excellent songs. Excellent. He played this show with his friend Brad Tursi, a great guitarist and singer in his own right, who lives in Nashville. So of course I put it on Twitter, because I can so concentrate on two things at once. And one of my Twitter friends told me he was from DC, which floored me and also made wonder what other great local acts I'm missing either because I've been hermited away from live music for the past couple of years or I just have no idea how to find what's cool anymore.
No matter. I talked to him after the show, actually because my mother walked up to him and his group and basically offered to be their manager, but that's another story that you'll have to buy me a few beers to hear, which may or may not be worth it to you. (They were very nice to my mom, which is also worth some props.) He tours regularly and I strongly recommend checking out a show, or at the very least picking up his records.
When music works - when you catch someone who's really talented who obviously enjoys playing with all his heart and soul - it makes all the shows that weren't so great seem almost worth the price of admission. I'm rooting for this one for sure.
I've wanted to write about a bunch of things this week, like...
*How I missed my fourth blogiversary because I thought it was tax day and actually it was April 10 and when I sat down on tax day to write about how I've been doing this for four years I got totally exhausted by my taxes and the four years concept and didn't finish it.
*How I despise the Susan Boyle hype and whereas everyone I seem to encounter on every single Web site I frequent feels awe-inspired by her courageous turn on that crappy Simon Cowell show the whole thing just made me pissed off and - again - exhausted. With all this exhaustion I may well soon be dehydrated Lindsay Lohan-style and need to go off for a rest at an undisclosed location in somewhere like Idaho or Montana.
*How much I only find joy in teaching right now and in the things I feel like I'm doing right as far as that's concerned. It's the best and most significant professional experience I've ever had. I'd really like it if other areas of my life would catch up but I don't really know if that'll happen anytime soon so yeah, exhaustion, dehydration, etc.
*I don't know. Something. Have I mentioned I have seven chins now, at least? I'm doing a Biggest Loser-style competition at work which is actually going pretty well. My knees have hurt lately to a degree that they ought not, so I'm focusing on fixing that because I'm not ready for a scooter yet.
*How I'm doing this March of Dimes walk next Saturday and I finally got my ass in gear and sent an e-mail to many people I know this weekend to ask for donations towards it and how much I really hated doing that but you know, I've bought a bunch of stuff from people (not most of the people I asked, of course, and this is really not the point anyway but this is how it's going lately, I start writing something and get all paranoid and weird about how people will react and so I embark on some annoying, bulky parenthetical statement and get all dehydrated again and need to stop for a snack or so I tell myself and don't finish the fucking post so whatthehellEVER) over the years, like COOKIES and WRAPPING PAPER and decorative GOODS and whatnot so one walk solicitation in that time, eh, not so bad. I don't know if anyone else will donate besides a couple very generous people, actually, and that has to be ok. I just care about the cause. I know it's hit or miss. I'm just happy to be doing it.
*How after four years, or maybe nine, depending how and where I start my count, I finally feel angry and not so much sad anymore about a particular person's impact on my life, just ANGRY AS ALL HOLY HELL and how whereas this is probably good and even freeing in some ways, my God is it exhausting, if not terribly dehydrating. It's crazy how deep you can bury things and how reliable the grief stages are no matter how long they take to work themselves out, and anyone who has any feelings about how this is too much too late can go shit in his or her hat as far as I'm concerned. Also I hate Facebook. (This one is the big one, by the way. This is the unwritable story that I have to write right now or I'll freak out just short of dying and I'm trying to figure out the best way to do it. It's driving me insane. Notice? Thanks.)
*How live-Tweeting the Sound of Music with one of the funniest women I know is a perfectly valid way for a no-longer-practicing Catholic to spend Easter Sunday night. It's stuff like that that's making me laugh out loud at the moment, girl can't help it.
*I started researching international adoption this weekend. Me, with the limited funds and the roommates and the whatevers and wherefores. Vietnam is still restricted which makes me sad. Hopefully in three years when I'm ready it'll all be straightened out.
I don't know, it's just the plodding along right now. I'm still very grateful for good things and actually spending a lot of time immersed in music and things that make me happy, but I'm edgy and agitated inside and outwardly just...whatever, and I honestly (really) don't want to be comforted out of it or told it'll pass, because sometimes that's how I feel when shifts occur. Anybody with a platitude at the ready pretty much gets a nice cup of STFU at this point and it's nothing personal, which is my personal dismissive platitude of choice at the moment. Whatever this phase is, it's so not pathological or in need of medication, cause I've been there in recent years and that was way different. This is actually kind of motivational. I feel like I just woke up and looked around after I was asleep for years and people had been stealing my stuff and toilet papering my house and I just was all lalala about it forever and now I'm not and have my hand on the receiver ready to call 911. It's interesting. I don't have a tremendous amount to offer to anyone right now, especially anyone needy or whiny or passive-aggressive and I don't even feel guilty about it, which is refreshing too. I don't want to make complicated plans. I don't want to be excessively in charge of anything. I don't want to have to work on any relationships right now. If it doesn't flow and isn't reasonably enjoyable, I don't want it. I'm done. Sorry, wrong number, try again. How about never? Is never good for you?
Yet. And still. I still have pretty low expectations in the face of what I've found are pretty extreme ones from most people (really, some people need to slow their roll big time, I'm just sayin) and I'm trying to work that out, but really? I'm just here. That's all. And no matter how this sounds, I really am ok with that. It's spring cleaning on the most basic level.
I don't know what this life will look like next year but I hope it's different and I feel that it will be. Sometimes I'm excited about that but mostly I'm just nervous still. I feel like I torched things completely recently, some of it against my will, some of it with my full cooperation, and now it's rebuilding time. I fucked up my life so badly starting a decade ago and now that that gigantic error has shrunk down to a new avatar with another woman in it, I don't have many or any of those chunks of time left to play with. It has to get better, at least as much as it's within my control. The things I want, the things I feel like I need to feel more satisfied, they're not that huge (who am I kidding? They're gigantic) but at the same time they're not anything you can pick up off of a shelf or get in a comment and you certainly can't find them on the Internet.
It may be funny around here again soon. No promises. Meanwhile, here's a monkey. I love monkeys, and the Big Picture. Also, I'm seeing this lady tonight. She's amazing.
"So shines a good deed in a weary world," Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice. Gene Wilder repeated it in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The line jumped out at me when I watched it for the millionth time on Sunday, reminding me of the community of parent bloggers, friends and allies who reached out this week to support two families who suffered the unthinkable loss of their babies.
The funeral of Maddie Spohr, 17-month old daughter of Heather and Mike Spohr of The Spohrs Are Multiplying and The Newborn Identity, is today in California. Thalon, the 16-month-old son of Shana of Gorillabuns, died this weekend.
I honestly do not know where to begin to sum up the online and in some cases very much in-person reaction from thousands of bloggers, because I know I can't, but I feel it bears mentioning. There is so much - SO MUCH - out there, a tremendous outpouring from people all over the Internet who care about these children and the people who have lost them that it's struck me silent. And while my heart and brain are full, I've been doing basically everything I can all of yesterday and today to avoid writing about the deaths of two small children, even though it was the only thing that seemed important enough to write about this week. I've watched post after post flow from the fingers of people all over this continent (and likely the world, if you've seen posts from beyond North American borders please link them in the comments.) And I've been reading them obsessively, amazed at people who can so readily find the words, at people who are responding to these losses with so much generosity and kindness, who are donating to the March of Dimes in Maddie's memory, who are traveling to California for her funeral to stand with and support her parents, who are turning their avatars and blogs purple in her memory. (Thanks much to Velma for helping me out with mine.)
Last night I ended up stuck on Bejeweled, a horribly addictive game that kills one lobe of your brain with stupidity while it frees the other one up to think about more important things, because I haven't been able to slow my brain down enough to knit this all together in a clean white text box. And after I couldn't do that anymore, I was ready to try to write about it, because even though I know for sure I can't do two baby lives and the immeasurable pain of two families justice, I need to talk about what happens when people all over the world come to care, consider themselves community, and have the technological means combined with the oh-so-human heart and spirit to do something about it.
I'm going to mostly let these people speak, but first of all, the facts, in case anyone reading missed them: Maddie died on April 8, 2009. Born 11 weeks premature two years ago, she had health issues throughout her life but had been doing well until the infection set in that took her life. Mom Heather and dad Mike wrote about their experiences parenting her, from the difficulties of prematurity and NICU to the everyday joys of watching her grow. Mike was a stay-at-home dad for much of Maddie's life. They are both on Twitter, Heather at @mamaspohr and Mike, @newbornidentity.
Shana's son, Thalon Bruce, died suddenly on Saturday.She shared the news yesterday.
There are countless communities on the Internet, with amorphous boundaries, knit loosely together in a global sense but with some of the tightest human relationships I've ever seen. The parent blogging community has been deconstructed in detail, but when it comes to losses like this, the rate and speed of organizing is remarkable. There's the ability of a stranger like myself, not a parent but certainly with the compassion for the inexplicable loss of a baby, to send a comment or an e-mail, to get sucked into the most beautiful pair of seventeen month-old eyes, and to cry for people I've never met because reading the accounts of their daughter's life are almost too much to bear. And if I feel this way? Who could imagine their grief.
In comments and on their own blogs, people reach out. And as usual anymore, Twitter is a communications hub, so intrinsic to online community building that I fail to engage when someone questions the value. You get it or you don't.
Still - human beings have to hit these keys and make the plans, and that is what has happened in both of these instances. Meghan at a Mom Two Boys is the kind of friend I hope I'd have on my side in a situation like this. She originally announced her loss on behalf of the family, has been instrumental in fundraising efforts, and has a For Maddie hub on her blog with links to (currently) 410 posts submitted by bloggers in her honor. March for Maddie has more, including videos and photos.
Lotus Carroll at Sarcastic Mom also has a page with every conceivable Maddie link, including the 50 teams who will be walking in her honor in the March of Dimes March for Babies in a couple of weeks. Donations to Maddie's March of Dimes page are over $25,000 so far (it's often down due to volume, so a trip to Sarcastic Mom's links are the best bet, I've found.)
The women of Room 704 (or, more recently, Seven-Oh-Spohr) are selling bracelets with the bulk of the proceeds going to the Spohr family. Yvonne of Joy Unexpected went out and bought a Nikon Coolpix camera instead of directly donating. Every ten dollars donated to the family gains donors one chance at the camera. Instamom is doing the same with a Nintendo DSi.
Bloggers including Mrs. Schmitty will be posting a photo of Madeline from this post at 2:30 p.m., PST today to coincide with her service. The For Maddie Flickr pool includes purple balloon launches and people wearing purple.
Shana's friend Sarah at Whoorl set up a Love for Thalon PayPal link, alongside her post about his loss.
Thalon passed away yesterday afternoon surrounded by his adoring family.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention wanting to punch the universe in the mouth right now. Really hard.
After the last two weeks I keep shaking my head because babies should never die. It’s not right and it’s the most fucked up thing I have ever heard. And yet it keeps happening and all I want to do is sit here in my pajama pants and wonder why? None of the above makes any sense. And I don’t even care. I’m just torn up on the inside and questioning how parents do it. How do you spend the rest of your life constantly worrying that in any minute your heart might break into a million pieces? None of the above makes sense because it shouldn’t. It - the death of a child - shouldn’t happen but it does.
The LA Times ran a story about the online response to Maddie's death. Heather Spohr will speak at her daughter's funeral.
The comments for both of these babies are countless, but this one from Flicka sums up what many feel:
Saying that I am so sorry seems woefully inadequate right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, now and in the days ahead. This internet stranger is hugging you from afar.
Kate from SweetSalty left one on this beautiful photo of Maddie:
Everyone's twittering and blogging and remembering and I'm just completely and totally stunned. Had to come here and see her. My god, she was some kind of imp or sprite or otherworldly girl.
I've spent almost two years reconciling the mysteries of what else is out there, having a 6-week-old premature son who is on that other side, and has all those answers. And yet I look at Maddie's gorgeous face and all over again, I can't make sense of it.
Maggie's post at Okay. Fine. Dammit is beautiful. Genius apparently causes blog crashes, because I can't get there now, but it says everything I wanted to but can't find the words.
Eight hours in the car today and I kept checking Twitter on my phone, and I swear for the first time ever I’m not annoyed by hashtags, I’m seeking them out, the #maddie’s, the #thalon’s, like beacons, and it’s so strange, isn’t it? In times of great confusion and profound tragedy we just want to be among others who are equally impacted, like after Columbine or September 11, and so this is what we do, we head to the chapels and the temples and the public parks and the malls and we shuffle together slowly, as one, taking comfort in the lull of the sound of our communal footsteps and that’s really what the blogosphere has become to me, you know? And everyone was there today, following the hashtags, each tweet and post a gonging of the bell, the Church of Twitter.
Forget about weary. The world ought to really lie down exhausted every time a baby dies, but then if it did it would never get up. It happens all the time, every day, all over the world. But every time, it seems like time ought to stop and remember.In the loss of these children, there is compassion for all children, for all families who lose them. There is not much more to say than that, except for whatever it's worth - which I'm not sure how to quantify but what do you do in situations like this other than things that seem like they might help, like they might have meaning? - I will wear purple today. And if there were a color for Thalon, if one pops up soon, I'll do that too. It's the least I can do for these kids and for their families.
Please feel free to share remembrances, updates and links to posts in the comments. I write at LaurieWrites. I will walk in the suburban Maryland March for Babies on April 25, in honor of Maddie, who joins the kids with cleft lips and palates who I will always walk for. Please visit my page if you feel so moved, and pitch in for all of these kids. Thanks. This is a particularly meaningful year.
President George H. W. Bush placed a ban on media coverage of the return of bodies of American troops 18 years ago and through that time, including six long years of war in Iraq, it has remained. President Barack H. Obama has lifted it, and in the name of truth and an informed democracy that should honor the sacrifice of its soldiers while it questions the manner in and the reason for which they died, this journalist is thankful.
It's up to the families to make the return public or not. It should of course, necessarily, be respectful coverage. But the bottom line is that the deaths of these people deserve the light of day.