Sunday, March 29, 2009


Dan with our first son, Justin.

Today is the seventh anniversary of my late husband's death. It may sound odd, but I always look back on it thinking, "it was a good death," as far as deaths go. It was back in 2002, just a few months after 9/11 when so many families sent their loved ones off to work, never to see them again.

I remember thinking how lucky we were to have time to do all the things we needed to do, say all the things we needed to say.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor back in 1992. The doctors gave him 18 months, tops, to live, had he taken the standard chemotherapy the oncologist recommended. Instead, after surgery Dan decided to try some clinical trials out of Tufts University and sure enough, two years later, the tumor was unnoticeable on a CAT scan. The doctors were amazed and were sure the original diagnosis must have been incorrect because they'd never known anyone to survive that long. We didn't really care, we were just grateful that he felt good, was able to do the things he enjoyed, as well as continue his career as an electrical engineer.

We put it behind us and moved on with the business of living our lives and bringing up our three sons. It was always there in the background that the tumor could return but it had little negative impact on our daily lives. The boys went from 3, 5, and 8, to 13, 15, and 18, before it did return; so they were given the gift of growing up with, and getting to know their Dad. I'm sure they would have had very little memory of him had we lost him as the doctors originally predicted, back in the early 90s.

But come early September 2001, the tumor returned. I thought he was having a stroke one morning and called an ambulance. He went into a coma as I discussed our options with his doctors, and decided to try some chemo. The doctors said the tumor was too deep to do surgery this time.

The chemo worked, though we anticipated that it would only be effective very short term. This time they predicted less than six months.

Dan never completely came back at that point. He came home and was able to enjoy is day to day existence, though his cognitive abilities were substantially diminished. He enjoyed being in the house with the boys running around, lots of visitors - friends, family, and church members. He had a wonderful Hospice volunteer who'd take him shopping or out for coffee or lunch. You had to be kind of careful because he might stoll off on his own or get it into his mind that he was going to drive. But never in a cantankerous way; he was always good natured and easy going about it.

A few weeks before his death we had a hospital bed delivered and he spent the last couple of weeks in it, with great home care through hospice. The night he died his brother Peter and Peter's wife, Laurie, were there with me. We knew it was time and we had some old home movies of the kids playing on the tv while I held his hand and Laurie and Peter and I talked. The boys came in occasionally, and each spent a few minutes alone with him. Dan's church group had been over earlier in the evening with their guitars and tambourines and had sang and played music for him. He was unconscious but I swear I saw him tapping his foot at one point.

I think it was about two a.m. that he finally let go. His hospice nurse had been there until about 10 and she came right back when I called and made the phone call to the funeral home we had prearranged.

The family - his seven siblings and spouses, and his Mom and Dad - gathered with us the next day to support each other and to remember the fun times.

It seemed his death came too early - at just 53 years old. But it was in peaceful and loving surroundings. I think that's the best any of us can hope for when our time comes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Weekend

I haven’t written in my journal much lately. I feel speechless without my camera. But this is supposed to be a journal, not a blog, so let’s see, what have I been up to lately?

I started training a new volunteer at work last week. She’s going to start paralegal studies this summer and wanted to volunteer to get a flavor of the work we do. We seldom accept volunteers because they often take more time than they save, but this woman was willing to do whatever kind of work we needed help with, so I agreed to put in the time to train her. She’s very sharp and picks up on things the first time around. I took her to the Statehouse with me on Thursday to participate in a workshop I was facilitating on a mock public hearing for Girls Day at the Statehouse. I love GDATSH. 105 seventh and eighth grade girls from all over the state converge to meet the governor and learn about the legislative process. It’s organized by our good friends at the Maine Women’s Lobby.

We held our public hearing on LD 84 – An Act to Ensure Fair Pay – which is before the real legislature this year. The bill would allow employees to talk with each other about their wages. Some employers actually bar this activity currently, but how are women to know if they get equal pay if they don’t know what anyone else is earning?

The girls had a great time strategizing about who you would want to have testify, and what their message would be. I gave my other volunteer the pro side and took the bad guy role for my group – those against the legislation.

It was a fun exercise and the girls came up with some good strategies and actually convinced the “legislators” – another group of girls – to amend the bill before passing it, to allow employees to ask their employer for the wage information in order to lessen any possible tension among co-workers.

Thursday night I went to pottery and then met Rick at Hallowell and Wine to listen to our friend Mark Miller play. Rick usually practices with his band Thursday but they weren’t practicing this week so I convinced him to come in to listen to Mark with me, thinking the place would be packed and he could save me a seat. Well the place was pretty empty. Mark is a kick ass guitar player when he wants to be. He was pretty mediocre Thursday night I must say. Quite disappointing. When he finished at 9:00 I decided to go find what the pottery girls were up to and Rick headed home, preferring to avoid that much estrogen. Probably a wise move on his part. The girls were in rare form. After the music ended at The Cup we headed over to The Higher Grounds where Jonah, Alfred, Thib, and Lefty were playing. A good combo. We found a few other women and an occasional brave male and danced until closing time at about midnight.

Friday was spent pretty laid back and then Rick and I headed to The Depot in Gardiner for a beer with some friends, to Joyce’s for dinner, The Wharf for the last half hour of the early show, and then to The Higher Grounds for music by Stevie Jones, and a shaker of espresso martinis.

Saturday morning I went into the studio for a couple of hours and was really pleased with some pieces I worked on. I came home early so we could go to our local town meeting. That was kind of an interesting experience. We didn’t stay very long because they decided they needed to do a paper vote on whether to authorize a monetary expenditure to investigate the need for a new town office complex. Many of the townspeople thought the tentative design the building committee had come up with was way too extravagant so there was a lot of opposition to it. They didn’t get the point that the money authorized then was to continue investigation – not proceed with the building. Anyway, it was going to take 2 hours to do the paper vote and count before they could continue with the next article, so Rick and I voted and left. As did many others I suspect.

Sunday we went up to The Solon Hotel in Solon, Maine for a benefit concert for a person who is fighting cancer. There was a great turn out and some excellent music and I ran into a few old friends. I had been telling Rick for the past couple of years what a dive the Solon Hotel was so he was anxious to check it out. It had been a long time since I’d been there so you never know if it might have gotten fixed up. It did seem a little cleaner than I’d remembered it in the past but it’s still quite a dive.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Kerouaction today: On Spontaenous Writing

At dusk it becomes very bleak looking, come March in Maine. The only color you can squeeze out of the stark landscape is a tint of red on the southwestern sky, as the sun sets behind the shadowy row of trees across the frozen lake. Dirty black and white snow banks hold dead looking oaks, maples, and beech trees rising out of them. An occasional black crow is seen scavenging, and even the color you got earlier from the bright bluejays is now long gone. There’s Emmylou Harris singing Cold Cold Heart lowly in the background and the only sign of warmth in the whole scene is the fire flaring and crackling from the corner of the room.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Full Moon

Every work day morning I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. so that I can run out to the other end of the house and turn the heat up. The 50 degrees we keep it at during the night is great for sleeping but it makes for a rude awakening – climbing out of my nice cozy bed to the frigid air, hurdling the gate we keep on our bedroom doorway to keep our cat Emma in our bedroom so she doesn’t decide to leave little deposits around the house in the middle of the night, and navigating around the furniture now that it is once again dark at 6:00 a.m. Then making my way back again for that last half hour of blissful sleep while the house heats up to a more friendly 70 degrees.

This morning I was stopped in my tracks just after my initial gate hurdle by the sight of the full moon shining across the frozen lake. It was very low in the southwestern sky and there was a slight tinge of pink in the atmosphere from the rising sun. It was so beautiful I just had to stand there in the cold and gaze. My instinct was to grab my camera and get some photos. However, my camera died last week.

The camera: Maybe I shouldn’t go from the wonderment of a magnificent morning moon to a rant about my piece of shit camera. The camera actually takes great photos. However, from the moment I got it there have been problems. Some of my own making I must confess.

First when I bought the camera at Staples they had a special for a free photo printer. Just pay $100 for it and send in the $100 rebate. Great idea if you’re not hopeless about these kind of things like I am. Of course I got the printer but immediately managed to lose the rebate info AND my receipt for the camera which needed to go with it. So I paid $100 for a printer which I think I've used once.

Second, the camera came with a special rechargeable battery but no charger. So I ordered a second battery and the charger. When they came, the new battery fit my camera fine but the charger didn’t work for the battery that initially came with the camera. So fine, I’m stuck with just one battery. If I’d had my receipt, maybe I could have gone back to Staples and gotten a second battery that worked in the charger for free. I'd like to think so anyway.

One of the reasons I choose this particular camera was because there was both a view finder and an lcd display. However, after a few months the lcd display stopped working, except to review pictures. So I had to always use the viewfinder. After dealing with that for a few months, Rick managed to find a place to turn the lcd display back on but it no longer toggles back and forth between the two without going deep into the menu features to do so.

Then last week after taking a few photos of my latest pottery pieces, the camera went dead. I assumed the battery just needed recharging. But after charging the battery, and the charger indicating the battery was completely recharged, the camera still wouldn’t turn back on.

So now I don’t know if the camera died or if the battery is defective or if the battery charger is defective. Plus the whole history with the camera just makes me want to walk away from it.

I looked on Amazon over the weekend and found the "perfect" new camera and put it on my wish list. If anyone has an extra $400 they’d like to spend on it for me, please click here.

Otherwise I’ll save up my pennies and in the meantime, I guess I’ll use Rick’s old reliable workhorse of a camera and be thankful.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rorschach Bowl

I rather like this bowl though it reminds me of a rorschach inkblot. It strikes me as a reindeer.