Sunday, November 10, 2013

Read to write.

Bad writing is everywhere. You can find it without even looking. But you have to go out of your way for good writing. You have to seek it out, and absorb it, and remember it, immerse yourself in it, so you'll know the difference. And so when you're the one doing the writing you'll know when it's going wrong.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The bells toll for me.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the end of Jesse's life. Every year since I learned what he did, I've felt torn between pride and horror at that pride, that he went down there to volunteer. That I raised a child who had the moral courage to do that, and that my teaching him this concept ultimately cost him his life.

I don't know how many of his friends realize why he died, what the cause was. You knew a hero. You knew he was special, that he goaded you to do more, do better, change the world for those who couldn't. I've heard some of your stories, and I am so proud of each of you for what you do. Tears well in my eyes as I type this and think of how you are risking your lives, or devoting your time to enlightening the next generation, each in your own way leaping forward into a career where you know you can do good for others. A little bit of Jesse I know follows with you.

 9-11 gave him the leukemia that killed him. But it gave him time that other victims didn't have. And he used that time-- he lived -- as hard as could. As if he knew the clock was ticking. I am grateful to all of you who were part of that whirlwind of full-on living.  The trip to Europe, the sky dive, the push through college to law school. The push toward knowledge, understanding, and greater compassion. The push to teach that zest for knowledge and exchange of ideas to kids a few years younger than him. And the wise ass humor he sought in every aspect of life. He could be a pill I know. He could be rough. He had a temper he was learning to channel in better ways.

It breaks my heart to know who he might be now, at 29. How proud we all would be of him. What risks he would be taking for someone else's sake. What ideas he would have inspired us with. And how we'd be laughing when he turned things on their heads so we could shake the humor out of it.

I am certain that one thing he would be doing is pushing awareness of the relationship between acute leukemia and 9-11. Warning the volunteers and residents of the signs and symptoms, so they will know. I wonder sometimes, if Martin Tallman's move to Sloan Kettering was just a little inspired by Jesse. The man who knew all there is to know about APL is here now, that means that lives will be saved, where before, when Jesse was there, the ignorance was so deep that Sloan Kettering refused to admit him early, till Tallman called and told them he would die within a week.

Because of this, his death was not in vain. His life certainly never was.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Missed Connection

The first fossil I ever found on my own was a whole trilobite, curled up in a ball like a potato bug about the size of the tip of my thumb. I'd never seen such a complete little specimen in my life. It was resting on a bed of limestone on a hillside park in Ohio, probably knocked loose by the recent rain. I picked it up and showed it to my biology teacher, who asked if I'd mind him displaying it in the park's museum. I was thrilled. I knew my dad would love to see it, so I put it in a cup and stuck it in the back of the car. At some point after I got home, I went back to the car to get it to show him, and it was gone. When I found him and asked him if he'd seen it, he was mad at me for leaving trash in the back seat. He said he chucked it in the grass and threw the cup away.

I never did figure out where he tossed it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maybe not

I've gone back and read my old novel, looking for what to keep. Even though it's what got me into grad school, it doesn't feel as good as it did. It seems slower, more talky, less active than I remember. I read scenes and wonder why I felt the need to include them. They cover the conversations and relationships among the characters, but they seem pointless, the kind of thing people write when they're much younger, I suppose.

I have a method when I write, that includes retyping a piece. It helps me to see where it slows down. If I get bored typing it, readers will probably get bored reading it. And so it appears I will be rewriting a great deal if I want to keep this novel.  Not sure I do. So much has changed. The town it was set in was wiped away by a hurricane. The people in it seem distant, characters I once had dreams about and felt were real in some recognizable way.

I feel like I've forgotten how to write characters. Not sketches of characters, the characters themselves. Personalities. Maybe I'll use it as an exercise. Or maybe I'll write about my actual life again. You learn so much about human nature online. One thing's for sure, you won't get bored reading it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear new mothers:

Don't be sad about how your body looks, worry whether you're still pretty, wonder where your youth went. Stop holding yourself up to society's standards, and you'll find yourself happier with who you are. Look at yourself through your children's eyes and you'll never feel low about yourself again. To them you are a goddess, you are the most beautiful woman in the world, your every mood is of prime importance to them; they watch and learn everything from you, including how to feel about themselves and about how they look. So for their sakes, learn to look at yourself as you would have them look at themselves.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy birthday baby

You'd be 29 today. I can still remember the morning you were born, the labor pains seeming endless but finally getting a sense of control over it, a vision of you finally in my life, of finally meeting you, and somehow that turned the pain into something I could ride, like enormous waves, without drowning. And now you are gone, and the drowning is every day.

We never really said goodbye. I don't see why we should have. We weren't finished yet.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


It took some thought to reopen this blog. It seemed to be causing distractions. For those of you who don't know, this blog is primarily about losing my son at age 22 to leukemia which he contracted after he volunteered at the WTC site right after 9/11. The audience is people who know me, other writers and bloggers, and most important: parents searching for support in grieving the loss of their children. Other losses in my life are mentioned, naturally. It all feeds into the same learning process, and the same support system.

It's unfortunate that so many are willing to dig into the lives of innocent people--including hacking a missing girl's private messages and page--and make no mistake that is what happened. If she did not invite you to read her private messages, and you figure out her password, that is the definition of hacking.

Reading here isn't hacking, I am letting you look at what grief looks like, in the hope that it will help other parents who have lost children. It's worth the price of some folks misusing this blog. Hopefully some of you will realize that posts on this blog, private messages from her FB page and elsewhere, were deliberately taken out of context. misrepresented, and twisted into something they were not, to feed a rumor mill that does nothing to help our lost family member or her father and sister.

This blog was closed out of concern for the families. Both families are in mourning right now. Those who actually know her know that she was one of us, too. She was a daughter and granddaughter, and niece and sister to us. She was part of every family celebration, and she was proud to call us family, and we were proud that she chose to be part of ours. We never thought twice about supporting her in every way possible. Neither family deserves to be subjected to the online gossip elsewhere disguised as concern. Because that just makes them suffer, and does nothing to build the case to find the killer. She deserves better. Her father and sister deserve better.

Character assassination of the people who love her is wrong. Succumbing to the petty lies and distortions would be wrong too. So the page reopens. We want her killer exposed, and the truth laid out for everyone to see.

If you have come here with an angry heart, and look to find only "incriminating" information, there's still hope that at some point the words will reach you and you will understand that she had two loving families, that all of us are in mourning, and that we support and love her father and sister, and mourn with them, and do what we can to help them. If you ever find yourself in the position we're in, come back, and find an open heart and two ears to listen.

May you find peace.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What no one tells you.

You can't even conceive of the choice I was being asked to make on this day, in 2007. I was asked over and over until the next day. I don't want reassurance, I don't need to hear that I did the right thing. I just want to give witness. His suffering was already over, and ours had just begun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tears and change

I believe that sudden welling up of tears and hopelessness is a sign of being stuck. I believe depression is a sign that we need to change something. Like a toddler who can't move a kitchen chair over to the sink, or a teenager grounded to her room. Is it a skill problem? A size problem? Or an inability to accept the inevitable and move on with what we have. Today I saw the neighbor who looks like Jesse, and I didn't cry. But just Saturday had an argument with a friend and sat in the bathroom crying over literally the nothing end of it, the resolution, the reconnection. I want to move forward, somehow. I want to feel I'm moving forward. I want to see progress. But for me, progress can be just standing still.