Breaking Bread

Before I get into the real reason for this post, an update since my last one.  (Grad school is eating up a lot of time.  It’s been a while since I posted anything…)  Yesterday was my boss’s first day back to work.  Considering what happened, he is in remarkably good shape.  He can take the stairs and carry things.  His gait is slightly off, and his speech isn’t quite as clear as it was before the stroke, but those are things that people who have never met him might not find noticeable.  He was very lucky.  We’re glad that he’s back, and he plans to stick around long enough for me to finish school.  Plans have not changed.

Now to the reason I needed to post today.

Anna made a new friend last night.  His name is Hassam.  (I hope I spelled that right.  I didn’t see how it was written on his name tag, at least not in any memorable way.)  The library has been facilitating a wonderful series of “Get to Know Your Muslim Neighbors” in collaboration with one of the churches in town and with the local Islamic center.  Last night, we were invited to dinner before prayers.

The tables were set for eight, and we mixed and mingled and tried to sit with people we didn’t know.  Hassam wound up sitting next to Anna.  In usual three-year-old fashion, she acted shy at first.  But once we started to serve the delicious meal of bread, hummus, falafel, chicken, salad, and rice, he absolutely charmed her.  And vice versa.

My mom asked what brought him to Kalamazoo.

“It’s a long story,” he said.  “I came from Istanbul.  I’m from Syria.  I’m a refugee.”

We didn’t push.  We agreed that it certainly must be a long story.  And then we ate and talked and talked and ate.  About what?  We talked about food.  We talked about school.  We talked about Kalamazoo.

We did not talk about our differences.  Why should we?  We had too much to learn about each other, the eight of us at our table.

We did not talk about the war.

And then, late last night, long after Anna and I were home.  After she’d moved from my bed back to her own, I got the news alert on my phone.

I don’t know what the solution is to the war in Syria.  I don’t know if the United States has improved the situation or made it worse by dropping bombs last night.  I do know that I am relieved for Hassam that he is here, that he is safe.  And my heart aches for those he had to leave behind.

I didn’t need to meet him to know that those being hurt in Syria are people.  I already knew that.  But it was particularly heartbreaking to have these two events occur the same evening.  I know that I can’t fix everything.  I just wish that I could.



Filed under Uncategorized

Unacceptable Behavior

Before I start, Anne, are you sitting down? Yes, you, Anne, the one saying, “Me?” Are you sitting down? Wait. Get up. You might want a stiff drink. I’ll wait.

Are you back? And you’re sitting down? Okay. Good.

<deep breath>

Okay. I haven’t written in a while. There hasn’t really been much to say. Work, school, life… Most days look the same. Survived (okay, aced) my first semester of grad school. Now in the second week of the second semester. So far, so good. But I have this feeling things are about to change.

My boss had a stroke. (You okay, Anne? You were sitting down, right?) Yesterday he was doing okay. Today, not so much. It’s very much a wait-and-see moment today. Needless to say, there’s not a ton of work happening in our office today. It’s difficult to focus. We’re worried about him, and we’re worried about what the future holds. He’s messing with our plans! And by “our”, I’m including him. He planned to retire in a couple of years. Now? We don’t know.

Watch this space. Hopefully I’ll have good news soon. Hopefully he’ll make a good recovery. In the meanwhile, please send your good vibes toward Florida. His wife said she appreciates the prayer chain.


Filed under Uncategorized

When Anniversaries Collide

My birthday was this week.  This week also marked the first anniversary of the crash that killed five cyclists and injured another four.  There were fundraisers, memorial rides, and a memorial service.  It was not an easy week.

I wasn’t ready for my birthday.  I wasn’t ready for it to be June.  I’m still settling into my new house*.  I just wasn’t ready for May to be over.  I needed a few more weeks of May.

But here we are, into the double-digits of June.

So it was my birthday.  And I was sad.  I purposefully didn’t open Facebook all day.  I was saving all of my birthday wishes until the evening.  I wanted a big burst of serotonin, not just dribs and drabs.

It helped, but I was still sad.  I was thinking of our friends who were about to mark the first anniversary of their grief.  And that made me remember how it felt the first year after Sofia died.

My birthday isn’t going to be the same for a while.  Like Sofia’s birthday, I know each year will become a bit easier, a bit less jarring.  But I suspect a year from now will be another hard week.  And probably the year after that as well.  Sorrow will be in Kalamazoo’s ether.  I’ll take some deep breaths.  I’ll do some yoga.  And I’ll cry.  And then I’ll stand up and take another step forward because life is not static, no matter how unready we are for it to be June.

*Oh, right.  I forgot to mention that I bought a house.  Surprised?  Me, too.  It wasn’t completely planned.  Then, knowing my rent would be going up again, I decided I should look.  I found a nice little house in my parents’ neighborhood.  And now I’m a homeowner!

P.S. I’m very proud of myself for not snapping at another parental unit when I picked Anna up last week.  Big sister was being overly affectionate to little sister.  You know the situation.  “I was just trying to give her a hug!”  Anna stopped and stared at the two of them.  Parental unit (I think it was grandma) looked at Anna and said, “Don’t you just hate how annoying big sisters can be?”  I had to bite my tongue.  All I wanted to do was to snap and say, “Her big sister is dead.”  But I didn’t.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized


At church on Tuesday, I listened as my parents chatted with two old friends about how all of their children had grown up together.  We’re all adults now.  One of them, who had taught at the nursery school my brother and I went to, had been one of my colleagues during my brief stint as a classroom teacher.  We were there to celebrate the life of another woman who would have joined the conversation.  We were there to support two women who, like me, were once the children of which they spoke.

I’ve talked about Paula before.  I don’t remember when I first met her and her sister.  Laura and Paula were just always there.  Girls we went to church with.  As my brother and I got older, they became girls we did theatre with.  Girls we went to KAMSC with.  Women we were friends with.

Then Sofia died.  Then Sebastian died.  And our lives changed completely.  A simple school friendship became a deep understanding of each others’ hearts and minds.  Shoulders to lean on.  Ears to bend.  Most reliable confidants.

Paula and I tentatively announced our next pregnancies to each other with the relief to learn we were both again in the same place.  We continue to check in regularly.  Sometimes in the broader support group that includes our dear Joanna who is approaching the second anniversary of her Gabriel.  Sometimes just the two of us, especially when Joanna’s grief was fresh and the wound in her heart a mere scab and not yet a scar.

We see each other more frequently than we did in the years between high school and Sofia and Sebastian.  We make it a point to see each other.  To talk.  To maintain the connection.

It wasn’t public knowledge.  But Paula let me know that her mom was not doing well.  Last week I had a dream.  I think it was Wednesday night, but it might have been a bit earlier in the week than that.  For some reason we were all at her parents’ house.  Paula and Laura and their dad and my parents and me…  And in walked Carol.  She was healthier than we had seen her in years.

“We weren’t expecting you!” we exclaimed.  “The last thing we knew you were in hospice!”

On Friday, Laura posted a link to the obituary.

If I did have that dream on Wednesday, it was after Carol had died.  Paula had a dream that night, too.  It wasn’t quite the same as mine.  It was more motherly, as it should be.

Somehow, all of those children of which my parents and their friends spoke have grown up.  We’ve started to shift generations.  I’m not sure any of us are ever ready.  But we’re here for each other and we always will be.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sentences I Never Thought I’d Say

This post is brought to you by this “stress nurse” that I picked up at a conference.  She didn’t look like this when I got her. I didn’t see the accident, so I’m not sure what happened…

  1. Oh, no, honey, we can’t put the nurse’s head back on.
  2. Are you bringing the nurse with us?
  3. Okay, I have the head and you have the body.
  4. Where’s the nurse’s head?
  5. Really, we can’t put her head back on.
  6. I’m going to put the nurse’s head here in your cup holder.
  7. Do you have the nurse’s head?
  8. What’s wrong?  Did you lose the nurse’s head?
  9. Do we have everything?  Lambie?  Burp cloth?  Nurse’s body?  Nurse’s head?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Catching Up

  1. Anna turned two last week.  And she talks and sings and has just about mastered the art of jumping.  She’s still working on landing.  Either that or else it’s just fun to land on one’s bottom.  She laughs hysterically when she does.
  2. One of the things that I’ve looked forward to is silent sustained reading.  I didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon.  Yes, frequently bedtime stories go like this:  Anna hands me a book and says, “Here. Read this.”  Then she sits down and picks up another book.  “Should I read it out loud or to myself?” I ask.  “To yourself,” she responds.  Then she hands me another book and another and another.  Not to read to her.  To read to myself.
  3. I’ve been knitting a lot of pussyhats.  I’m looking forward to knitting something that’s not a pussyhat.  I’m sure it will feel weird.  I’ve been knitting on size 13s.  I rarely use needles that large.  The 1s that my new mittens will be knit on are going to feel so tiny!
  4. The National Day Without Women is next Wednesday (3/8).  All women are asked to refrain from both paid and unpaid labor.  Wear red (in any amount – a shirt, a piece of jewelry, a pair of socks, ruby slippers).  If you must participate in labor, try to frequent women- or minority-owned businesses.  As a single mother, this is a little awkward.  If I strike from unpaid labor, the only person I hurt is my two-year-old.  And given the work that I do, the only person I really hurt by striking from my paid labor is myself.  However, I have asked my childcare provider if keeping Anna home from school that day will support her teachers’ desire to strike.  (She’s checking and will let me know.)  And while I probably will go to work that day, I plan to leave my phone unanswered and my email unread.  I hope you’ll join me to the best of your ability in showing the contribution women make on a daily basis.  I know it won’t be as amazing as when the women of Iceland went on strike, but I’m hopeful that we can make an impact that day.
  5. My mom’s birthday was last week.  It was the same day as Anna’s 24-month well-child visit, and I took the day off so that my mom and I could play after Anna’s appointment.  One of the things we decided to do was go bra shopping.  We went to Mastec to see if they still had bras for hard-to-fit women.  They don’t for the simple reason that they closed.  Back in November.  Yes, their website is still active.  But they’re closed.  But when we got up to the door, my mom saw that another boutique had left business cards.  She tried to call while I pulled up a map on my phone*.  It’s five minutes from where I live.  It’s called Beautifully Unique, and it is a lovely place to shop.  Like Mastec, they fit women who are post-mastectomy as well as women who are hard to fit.  They have a huge selection of standard sized bras and are working on being able to do special orders.  (They’ve only been open for about a year.)  I walked out in a 34K that’s almost perfect.  The underwire is just a bit too high in the front and scratches a little as the day wears on.  But the rest of it fits so well that I haven’t worn a different bra since I bought it.  So Mastec may be closed, but there’s an even better place to shop that’s still in Kalamazoo.

*When we got home, we discovered there was a map printed on the back of the business card.  Yep.  We’re good readers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When I Wasn’t Paying Attention

I’ve been waiting for three months to write this post.  I didn’t want to jinx anything.

And before you get excited for the wrong reasons, no, I’m not pregnant.  God, no!  I’m never doing that again.  As you may recall, my body and pregnancy are not friends.

Something happened over the past decade or so.  I don’t know how it happened.  I wasn’t really trying for it to happen.  I was just here, doing my job.  And then this fall, my boss and I started talking.  He’s my dad’s age.  He’d like to retire at some point.  And there’s really no advancement left for me… Except for, well, his job.

Wait, what?  I’m thinking about applying to replace him when he retires?  Yeah.  Surprised me, too.  But since we’re planning to expand our accreditation, there’s no reason the head of our program has to be a physician.

There’s just one problem with us convincing the dean to promote me when the time comes.  We work in higher education.  I have a BA.  Sure, I’m a CHCP, which is the primary credential for people who work in healthcare CE.  But that’s not a degree.  Academia is picky about those initials after your name.  So I did the only logical thing:  I applied to grad school.  And yesterday I got my acceptance letter.  I start classes in the fall and in two years, I’ll be able to add the initials MPH (master of public health) after my name.

Yeah, it’s a little crazy.  I’ll still be working full time.  And I’m still a single mother.  And I’ll technically be a full-time grad student.  Village People, I’m probably going to need you!

‘Cause when I wasn’t paying attention, I somehow wound up with a career.


Filed under Uncategorized