Jul 26, 2009

Miserable day.

When I moved to Portland from Chicago, I swore I would never complain about two things: the weather or the traffic. I lied. But I'm doing what I can to entertain the little nipper, despite her obvious discomfort. Poor noodle; limp as can be and CRANKY today when she wasn't eating leftover birthday cake or in the pool.

Thanks for reminding me to capture this moment digitally, Ella. Every time I see it I'll have the urge to hose down both child and house.

Gigi takes after her father; she loves the water.

Yup, she's doing push-ups.

Hard to tell if she's having fun.

Huh? Time to GET OUT?

Comic relief.

My parents sent this to me when I was in college, and I've kept it this long because it always makes me laugh. (Click to enlarge.)

Jul 24, 2009

Good bread, good meat.

Since Grace was with her father on her birthday, Michael made an extra special dinner to cheer me up. (Apologies to my vegetarian and vegan friends.) I will say this: that man knows how to grill meat to perfection.

Also, the yummy sourdough bread and mushrooms, along with a bottle of wine (so gone!), were a last minute gift from a woman in the neighborhood who Michael helped get back into her house earlier this week in the wee hours. That night, while he tinkered with the lock, I commiserated about the whole locking out bit, with which I am painfully familiar. (And tonight, I took the opportunity to plug my book and hand her a business card, since Annie Bloom's has chosen to remove my one remaining book from their shelves.)

I digress. Happy birthday, Gigi; I miss you. And thanks to Michael and Ivy for a delicious meal! I'm full, and my faith in the goodness of (most) neighbors has been reinforced.

Happy birthday, Gracie!

You're four. How did that happen so quickly when the first weeks seemed like months?

Yay, water!

Does this seem like a good choice? Or maybe a really bad choice?

Jul 17, 2009

Zen masters.

I'd give anything to be in the moment like these two.

Makeshift doghouse.

Michael dashed into my office one afternoon, grabbed the camera and said, "Promise you won't be mad," before disappearing back outside. Yup, this is my pinhead of a dog, perfectly content to make her bed and lie in it.

She blends. My dog is the color of dirt.

We've decided to let her keep it. Think how handy it will be if we decide to plant something.

Third one's a charm.

My personal injury lawyer is only 34. But he went to Harvard, is very cool, and I suspect he kicks butt. Also, he works on contingency, which most do, but I worried about having to pay another person to fight my battles for me, when I'm such a scrappy little fighter myself. ...Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Jul 15, 2009

Grace's spaces.

Grace would prefer to be outside almost all of the time now, and I can't say I blame her. I've actually had to chase her around the yard to get her to come inside, usually with one or both of us in various stages of undress. Brady's the same way, even if it means putting up with the shrieking human child stroking her back with a stick.

Gigi totally digs the fountain.

Yes, she got quite wet right after I snapped this shot.

Tending to her flower bed. It's starting to bloom now.

Brady skulking around the perimeter of the compound making sure every square inch has her scent.

This looks like some sort of apology, if I recall correctly. Brady doesn't look too impressed.

And then there were three.

Three lawyers, that is. A divorce lawyer, a real estate lawyer and a personal injury lawyer, if he takes my case tomorrow. This is two weeks after the accident, and my face is healing like a superhero's, but the rest of my body and spirit are struggling in a way I never expected. I'm waiting to bounce back, but I hurt, I'm exhausted, my brain is mush.

In the midst of all this, I've noticed that I'm frequently feeling an emotion that used to be quite foreign to me: envy. When I see pictures of people enjoying their summers, unencumbered by financial and physical distress, living normal lives and even thriving, the green feeling I have is acute — and extremely unpleasant. I hear about someone who's gotten a six-figure book deal or has a NYT bestseller, and I have to suppress the urge to scream, "What about me?" I see couples building new houses, adding another child to their already happy family, making plans for the future without fear, and I try to remember what that carefree life felt like. In many cases, they are people who have gone through hell and back before they found their way, and I don't at all begrudge them their happiness. But I want it for myself. I want the hard decisions I've made in the last year to end up being the right decisions. I want things to turn around for me and my family, and for all the other families I know who are going through difficult times. It's not just money; I could win the lottery tomorrow and still be just as lost as I am today (albeit lost while looking at real estate on Alameda Ridge).

What I really miss are those old feelings of success and self-sufficiency, perhaps more so because I haven't often experienced failure. There is a down side to having things come easily to you early in life, and I'm getting cozy with that uncomfortable suspicion that maybe I didn't really earn all the things I used to value; even worse, what if they weren't all that valuable? Now I have to figure out what I really want; what would make me truly happy; what I honestly value and want to share with Grace. Then I have to work my ass off, risking failure on each new front. Hello, real world. My name is Laurel.

Jul 11, 2009

Quick update

Before I left my parents' house, I left a message for the off-duty paramedic, David Gurnee, who made my accident so much less frightening than it might have been. I wanted to see him, and give him a giant hug for everything he did for me that day, but he wasn't available. Then, this afternoon, my phone rang and it was him; he'd been on vacation and just gotten my message. I couldn't help but burst out, "Ohmigod thank you for calling me!" We talked for a while, and I hope I adequately expressed my gratitude. He seemed like a genuinely cool dude with an appreciation for Subarus and some good advice for dealing with all that follows when one totals a car and has to deal with insurance companies. He also confirmed my recollection of the accident, that the airbags deployed while my car was airborne, rather than when it hit the ditch. I don't know why this was important to me, but it explains why my face was such a mess; airbags are designed to inflate and then deflate quickly, which means that when my car landed, my airbag had already done its thing. The state trooper was adamant that the airbags couldn't have inflated right away; sometimes I just like to be right.

Anyway, there's nothing quite like talking to someone who was there with you during a horrible experience. And like I said before, HE WAS THERE. I actually laughed about the whole thing for the first time since it happened, which I wouldn't have noticed but Michael did. David seemed like someone I could hang out with and have a beer, and talking with him gave me some closure. Also, his wife is an English teacher, which made me want to drive (!) up the peninsula and talk about books.

There are wonderful people out there. How lucky am I to be able to thank one of them who helped me?

Jul 10, 2009

Before and after.

I'm not really springing back into action post-accident. In fact, I am not at all myself, and my normal self isn't exactly an energetic little ray of sunshine to begin with. According to the Portland ER doc who saw me when I woke up disoriented, dizzy and unable to string a sentence together, this is common with head injuries, but as far as I'm concerned, it just sucks. On days when I take care of Grace, I struggle to find the energy to keep up with her, physically and mentally. She knows something's wrong. Brady knows something's wrong. Even the guy who gave me the rental car must have figured something was wrong, because it took him a full ten minutes to convince me that I wouldn't have to pay anything. I just couldn't comprehend the words coming out of his mouth, because I knew as soon as we stopped talking, I would have to climb behind the wheel of a car (an ivory PT Cruiser!) and drive home. I was actually shaking, and not with gleeful anticipation.

My life seems like a series of befores and afters. Before and after John and I split up; before and after last summer's health issues; before and after losing my job; before and after meeting Michael; before and after the ongoing legal issues with the house; before and after Grace was potty trained (yay, Grace!); before and after Max died; before and after the accident.

Could be the concussion, could be the chemical imbalance in my brain prevailing over my meds, could be that this last year has just been unusually stressful, but I'm having a really difficult time regaining my sense of who I am and what I should be doing. Taking care of Grace is draining, but I know what's expected of me; when she's not here, I'm adrift. Normally, I would write. In fact, I'm dying to get back to my novel. The hurdle? My laptop died, and when I sit down at my desktop computer to write, I feel like I'm working, and I don't want to feel that way about the one thing I love to do. I have nothing against working (my lack of employment notwithstanding); I just want to continue to experience writing as something that brings me joy and fulfillment and keeps me in the moment, endlessly. That may sound spoiled, but I'm funny that way. So tomorrow I will focus on one step at a time: get up, shower, bring desktop computer to The Mac Store, trade in for a laptop. The most challenging leg of this adventure will be the part where I have to shower. It still hurts, and I have to confront my cuts and bruises in the mirror.

On a positive note, think of all the water I'm saving by showering every other day. Also, I'm stationary quite a bit more since I've lost my mojo, which Brady loves. This dog wants nothing more than a warm body to lie on, and the occasional decomposing animal to eat. What would I do without my little family?

Jul 5, 2009

Max: 1994 - 2009

I made an unplanned visit to my parents' last weekend to say a final goodbye to their dog, Max. (Read his story here.) He was a magnificent dog, but fifteen years is a long life for a shepherd/husky mix. His mind and soul were still there, but his body was tired and every time he fell, a little bit of his dignity chipped away. He still walked every day to the end of the driveway with my dad to get the mail, but it could take a while and he could no longer carry anything back, which must have been awful for him.

A trip to the beach in Ocean Shores last March.

The day before he died, we lifted him into the car and drove to the beach, where he meandered forever and resisted going back to the car. He ate an ice cream cone on the drive home (an old treat from his agility training days), and enjoyed a cheeseburger back at the house (an old treat from his therapy dog days). Later, my mom fried a steak for a bedtime snack, and we all had a few bites. It was a good day.

Tuckered out.

He happily finished that steak the next day while we waited for the vet. The weather was perfect and we put him in the shade so he could be outside, which he loved. He went peacefully, with the hands of the three people who loved him most stroking his body. After they took him, we cried and sat around trying to convince ourselves it was the right thing for Max. It was.

His credentials.

My dad and I used to joke about starting a Church of Max, because he was all about love — pure, unconditional, joyful love. There wasn't a malicious bone in his body (except for that one unfortunate squirrel incident), and I swear he had a better sense of humor than most people I know. He was so smart, he learned what "walk on the beach" sounded like when spelled out. And he smelled yummy, behind his ears where his fur was all velvety.

Last week, in the garden.

We're heartbroken now, but so grateful he came into our lives. I don't at all like the idea of a world without his unique energy, especially for my parents. But I like to think some of his love for life rubbed off on all of us and will stay forever. Stay, Max.

Jul 4, 2009

Really, REALLY bad timing.

Here's my car after I was cut out of it July 1st. (News story here.) I like little old ladies as much as the next person, but I don't necessarily think they should be driving unless they can stay in their own lane. She didn't drift into my lane; she turned so quickly, it was like she was aiming for me. I was able to swerve just enough to avoid a head-on collision — which means she nailed me right in the driver's side door. I remember that awful crunching noise, glass, smoke, spinning as if the car was airborne, and airbags. I actually tried to get out of the car when it stopped, because I watch enough movies to know that cars explode when they crash. But I couldn't really manage anything other than dialing 911 on my cell, then handing it to the guy who appeared in my window. Turns out he was an off-duty paramedic, David Gurnee, and while I couldn't pick him out of a lineup, I will be grateful to him for the rest of my life. He started an IV, gave me gauze to hold on my face, had another guy climb in back to hold my head still, called my parents and talked to everyone else who called after that. Most important, HE WAS THERE. I was completely in shock, shaking uncontrollably and not at all comfortable with the amount of blood soaking my clothes. It took the emergency crew what seemed like FOREVER to arrive, and I simply cannot imagine being alone that whole time, or even being with just regular good samaritans (who also stopped). He was my guardian angel that day.

I thought I could blog about this with some sense of perspective, that it might even be cathartic. I was glib about the accident on facebook, probably because of the painkillers. But now that I'm home with Grace and I realize how close I came to never being home with Grace, I don't think I have enough distance from the experience just yet. So I will say this: thank God I was alone in the car and that the old couple wasn't hurt. My face is a mess and my body is sore, but I'll heal; I'm lucky to be alive. I'm not sure when I'll get behind the wheel again. I suppose when I get a car and need to go somewhere.