Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Originally uploaded by anniemcq
"Mom" he says sleepily. I grunt, because he's supposed to be going to sleep, and he says "I just have to tell you this one fact that amazes me before I go to sleep. Spiders were alive in the time of the dinosaurs!"

"Birds, too" I say.

"I know. There were no words then, were there? When were words invented? Did someone invent them? Like, God? Or maybe the Indians? Probably the Indians."

And with that he went to sleep, leaving me in his gigantic brain dust, while he heads off to dreamland to come up with other facts and questions to stump and amaze me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Where are you?
is not a question
I need to ask.
I know.
You are right there,
dancing like you did that time
to make me laugh so hard
I ached to breathe.
Sitting beside me as I pasted together
my life from scraps and bits,
until it resembled something I needed.
When I finished,
you swept the leftovers into one hand
and tossed them out.
There you are.
Nestled under my left breast,
beating in my heart.
You are always there.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

HeadSong Sunday: You've Got To Have Friends

I don't often post on Sundays, since they are a day of rest and all, but I woke up with this song in my head. Do you know why? Honey, sit down, I'm gonna tell ya.

When I was twelve, I heard, for the first time, The Divine Miss M. I think this is the album that made me want to go into theater, because I became wildly obsessed with getting on stage to sing The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B". I wore out the groove on that song, I listened to it so much.

But there was another song on that album that I listened to: You've Got To Have Friends. It spoke to me of friendship beyond cool, beyond what I was wearing, beyond who got invited to the pool party. It spoke to me of the kind of friends I wouldn't actually make for years to come, but I always tried my best to be that kind of friend.

When we lived in LA, I made those friends. We made art together, we drank beers together, we had babies together. And when we moved away, they helped me pack. It was so hard to leave them. So, so hard. I still miss them. My friend Shannon showed up one particularly awful day while I was packing. I was weeping. Charley was already in Portland looking for a house, working his new job, and I was packing our condo myself, with Joe-Henry. I had so much help, but I was falling apart. Charley and I had had a horrible fight on the phone, and Shannon showed up, gave me a hug, listened a bit and packed up my kitchen, while I dealt with the mover who had come to give us an estimate and the exterminator who had come to test for termites. Shannon was my rock, along with Amy and Erin and my in-laws. They held me together with kitchen twine, and somehow I lived to tell the tale.

And today, today I get to return the favor, at least to Shannon. Because she and her husband and her beautiful girls, all four of them, are moving to Portland! Today! I will get to show up bearing food, and squeeze her and her family, because it's been far too long, and dance a happy dance because the siren song of Friendship has been heard.

Have a happy, happy day. I heart all of you, my friends - you too, keep me going. Though most of you, I've never met in person, I feel so grateful for your online presence.

Friday, July 25, 2008

HeadSong Friday: The Impossible Dream

Because I can't kick you, internets, but I want to, dammit, I NEED to.

Because I'm an aging Theater Geek (like an aging Marching Band Geek, only more dramatic), and this is perhaps one of the best songs ever written for the stage.

Because Brian Stokes Mitchell's voice makes me moist in my nether regions.

Because I saw him for the first time at the Hollywood Bowl way, waaaay up in the cheap seats and thought he was singing directly to me:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:

Who Am I Kidding?

How we spend our morning, or The Things My Son Has Learned From Me.

What hath I wrought?

If you'll excuse me, now it's time to power down and seize the day in some manner that does not involve a screen of any kind. I'll miss you, internets.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Apparently, Twitter is having some issues, and lots of people are losing "followers" and those they are "following". Many are "bereft", "angry", "upset", "Pissed", and some are questioning life itself. According to the Twitter site where the problem is being followed by millions of pale, pale people.

Jesus. Get a life. Yes, it's annoying. Like when you spill water on your keyboard and fry your computer, or send your cellphone through the laundry. Only it's someone else's bad, and you can bet they are working on it like mad, because it's their baby, but folks are up in arms. Make that UP IN ARMS !!!

This is why I was reluctant to join Twitter in the first place. It's like Geek Crack. So addictive that if you go five minutes without you start to twitch and sweat. I mean, yes, if you're tweeting for business purposes, then it's a drag. But even then, no one has died. No one has cancer. You haven't lost the use of your arms and legs. But most people are just randomly posting their "thoughts" to 2,003 of their closest "friends". How do you even FOLLOW that many people and still have time to go pee? Or are sales of Depends way, way up?

I don't consider myself a luddite, by any stretch. And if you asked my husband, he'd probably say I have a "dependency issue" with my blogging and tweeting. And it is a bit of an inconvenience to lose my peeps, if not my tweets, but I am 46 years old, and I'm using words like "peeps" and "tweets", so how seriously should my complaints be considered?

People, people, people. Look up. Walk away. Stretch. Go for a walk. Or call a friend that you know in real life. Do your dishes. Take this inconvenience, because that's all it is in the grand scheme of things, as a reminder to take a shower. Maybe then you will notice that you are a bit pasty and smelly and pale. And if you think I'm talking to you directly, I'm probably not, because I don't think that the people who read this blog are in this category. I could be wrong, and if I am, I'm sure I'll hear about it.

I'm going to go smell my kids hair and clean the kitchen and get out in this beautiful day. Who knows if I'll be back.

Real life ROCKS.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cold Fear

"Are you okay, Mom?"

That's the question my son asked after I got off the phone with a dear friend. Her wife, the mother of their two kids, had been diagnosed with a rare cancer about three weeks ago, and had just started chemo, and was hospitalized because she could no longer swallow. The tumors that showed up on the initial baseline ct scan were shown to have spread in the more recent ct scan taken a week ago. I'm sure I was ashen, and he was frightened. So was I.

These friends are like family to us. We met years ago doing theater together, and as fate would have it, they lived in the same building we did. We were the managers of the apartments for a time, and they still loved us anyway, even though we had no idea what we were doing. We watched each other's cats when we went on trips. We used their apartment to cook Thanksgiving dinner when they were out of town and our oven wasn't big enough for the pterodactyl we had stuffed for our dinner. We attended their wedding, on a beautiful, sunny Seattle afternoon in a park overlooking Puget Sound. Their first child, a girl is two months older than Joe-Henry. Their second child, a boy, just turned one a few months ago. We've stayed close, and the kids have helped us get even closer, if that's even possible. Joe-Henry loves their daughter Hazel, and seeing them together is like watching the future in living color. He loves baby Gabe too, asking for one of his own every time we leave their house.

We don't talk on the phone as much as I'd like to. They are both incredibly busy, talented people with lots on their plate. We email a bit, but it never matters how infrequently we see each other - we always pick up where we left off. But when she emailed about her diagnosis, and said they were leaving town that morning for the Adirondacks, but would see someone at Sloane Kettering, and would be back.....it's all just happening too fast. It's too much to take in, you know? And if I feel this way, I can't imagine what they are going through.

Our conversation was mostly very informational. I got caught up on what has been happening, because it's been so fast they've barely had time to process it themselves. Her voice was strained and exhausted, but she sounded remarkably strong, and buoyed by their family and friends. Someone got a philanthropic group to pay next months mortgage, someone else was cleaning their house, another friend dropped by and weeded the garden. I could tell that these things meant so much to them, and it wasn't lost on her how dearly they were being held in everyone's hearts. And their kids are helping them stay in the moment, something that has to be a necessity when panic threatens to send you racing through the streets in ten different directions.

I am setting them up with a blog and a great organizational website to arrange for friends to help, but I still feel completely helpless. I wish I could cure cancer instead. I wish I could kick cancer's ass to the curb. I wish I could not feel scared for my friend. I feel guilty for my fear - I want to just be fierce and organized and helpful and unemotional. And honestly, I am those things on the outside, for the most part. But inside - I am wobbly black jello. It won't stop me, though. I think I just had to say it, just once, acknowledge it, and now it's time to get to work.

Love to you all - it can't be said enough - love to you all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

HeadSong Friday: King Of The Road

You'd think that with all the bike riding we've been doing I'd pick something obvious like "I Want To Ride My Bicycle" by Queen, but seriously, have you seen how many cycling montages there are on youtube? Holy Padded Bike Shorts, Batman, there are waaaay too many.

But I was thinking today, as JH and I were out and about in our little town, peddling along, about how amazing it felt the first time I rode without training wheels, and the first time I rode without a parent nearby (not that that will ever happen with Joe-Henry - he'll be trying to shake me off his bumper when he's twenty). It made me feel a lot like this. Like I owned every inch of sidewalk, and I didn't have a care in the world.

I loved this song as a kid, and when I came across this version, with all those fab colors, I couldn't resist. They reminded me of his bike shorts. We got him two pairs, almost three years ago now, as sort of make-shift compression garments. He picked out the colors himself. He got turquoise and this electric pink. He went through a phase at that age where everything was pink: he had pink converse sneakers, pink striped rainboots, and when he heard at kindergarten that pink was a "girl color", he stopped wearing them. But today, today was different. He pulled on those pink bike shorts (with other shorts over them), and peddled his little butt all over the place. He wanted me to take his picture in them tonight, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Wear your favorite color, and ride, baby, ride. Ding ding!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two wheelers, No four wheelers for Joe-Henry

Since it's very early here, and I haven't had coffee, and this little chirpy boy is chattering in my ear about his success on his new* bike without training wheels, and did I mention I haven't had coffee ?, I thought perhaps we could do a brief interview for the blog:

What made you want to ride without training wheels?

I just thought that I could really do it and that just inspired me to try it.

You had your daddy with you. Did he help?

Yes he did, quite a bit. Well, when we were like landing, he had to say "you would have fallen", and I just said "Okay, I'll try not to do that" because sometimes I'd make a steep lean and he just got me before I fell, and that's what I felt like when he caught me.

What did it feel like when you knew you were riding on your own?

When I looked at the two wheelers, well I looked at the front and not the back because I would just go "waaaah!!!!", and you'd have to come get me, I just looked at the front wheel and I said "this feels so great!", and I usually like it when I get things because it feels great and that's just so awesome.

Does it feel as safe without training wheels?
Yes it kinda does, I just pretend I'm on training wheels, but when I lean, I kinda don't think about riding with training wheels and then when I get back on balance, I just think about the training wheels are balancing me and they just don't have crumbs on them and they're not as heavy.

Do you think you can go for long bike rides?
I hope I will be able to as long as I can ride up steep hills and start up hills and downhills better. I just hope that I can do that someday.

What's the best part of riding a two wheeler bike?
Ijust really feel good, and it feels happy to be free, because you're kind of free of the crummy training wheels that make it heavier. It's nice to be showing the world my tricks, but one time I tried to wave and my bell was rotten and dry and yikky, and I tried to push it, but I got kind of off balance, but then I got right back on balance, and that felt pretty good.

When I was riding with training wheels, I really wanted to lean and turn but my training wheels would stop me from doing that, and um, the training wheels were all crummy, so that if both of them touched the ground and I'd go up a super big hill, such as the Red and White Park (the huge hill at the end if you go around the park?), at first I would be like "ugh, ugh, ugh,", but now that I'm not on training wheels anymore, it feels like I'm not even, like I don't even have to peddle when I go up the hill and it's really great to be free, and I felt really proud of my self when my mom and dad would scream like "woooohooo", and it was really hard like starting and stopping. Starting uphill #1 hardest, Starting downhill #2 hardest. At first I was going to go around the big circle again, and I was going to go the other way, and I started from uphill and I was so proud of myself. And I wanted to do it the other way, but I sort of had a break in the middle, not a break, but it was really hard to peddle, and I started from downhill too, and it was hard, and I thought I was going to go zipping, zipping zipping fast, and I kinda put on my foot brakes a little bit, and then I just kinda turned, 'cause before I was on training wheels, and I would slow to almost stopping until I would almost fall, and that was until I learned how to stop myself and put my feet on the bottom, on the ground in other words. So it was really fun to learn to ride my bike without training wheels, and I like it alot better than when I had my training wheels on.

And I can't wait to go again today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

HeadSong Friday: Song of Bernadette

I've been waiting a while for this one. For the right time. I'm a little concerned that, with my last two HeadSong posts being solidly set at least two decades before the present, this one might finally put me over the edge into the "Time/Life Classic Pop Songs" category, and you'll all be helping me move into the assisted living facility down the road.

But this past couple weeks have been hard on my soul. Some sad, scary news about a dear friend with a rare cancer; my darling husband's battle with sadness, and my own struggle with mostly hormonally induced depression. I've always been one that can shake things off and soldier on, chipper and perky as you can be at fortysix, but the last few days have left me feeling like I am rolling a boulder uphill. While listening to a running commentary about Lego Starwars.

I have always been loathe to talk too much about depression, because, well, it's just depressing. It seems so whiny and unproductive and downright Un-Lutheran. And others have done it so much better than I. In the right hands, depression can sound so romantic, don't you think? But in my hands, it just sits there, cold and clammy and hard and completely unyielding. Too heavy to throw, too solid to mold, making me too tired to do anything but think about how tired I am. But I threw it out there anyway, heavy as it was, and briefly told the world that I felt like shit, and you were all so kind. It brought tears to my eyes to read your comments. Your kindness was like shining a light on something good that I recognized, and it helped me crawl out and brush off a bit, and get on with the getting on of my life.

So to thank you, I want you to hear one of the more beautiful songs I've ever heard. Charley played this for me years ago. It's from a Jennifer Warnes/ Leonard Cohen album called Famous Blue Raincoat (with a 20 Year Anniversary reissue, it's so worth a trip to Amazon). It's a fabulous album, and her voice is amazing. So unaffected, so easy, so warm. And this song is my favorite. It's about faith in goodness, and really, couldn't we all do with a bit more of that?

Be sure to hug yourself tight for me when the song is finished. Love to all of you,
Mrs. McQ

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I can't seem to do anything right today.
I can't say the right thing.
I can't do the right thing.
I feel angry and sad and powerless.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Self-Portrait with Smiles

Self-Portrait with Smiles
Originally uploaded by anniemcq
Joe-Henry brought these back from his vacation with G&G, and they've been alternately making me smile and freaking me out ever since. Oh, and look! I haven't lost my marbles - there they are right there!

Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome

As some of you know, Joe-Henry was born with a rare syndrome called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome. It's causes are unknown, and there is no cure. We are incredibly fortunate in that his case is relatively mild, and while he has bouts with cellulitis from time to time, he is very healthy and on the go.

We have not needed much in the way of "treatment" for JH. Just some compression stockings so far (that he hates wearing and for the most part refuses). In the next year or so, it is my hope that we can have him followed more closely, because with adolescence there is a lot of growth, with growth there can be complications. But as long as he's mostly symptom free, we don't want to do much. It is usually something he has to explain from time to time, which he is brief and confident about: "I was born with it." It certainly doesn't define him, but it has had a big effect on the person he is. He is one of the more compassionate kids I know, and he is maybe the last one to notice if someone is "different" from him. He is confident and strong and funny and talented. He used to play guitar and mandolin and has informed us that he wants to focus on the piano and drums right now, but he might pick up the guitar again when he's a teenager. Or maybe ten. He loves school and riding his scooter and swimming and math. He reads 198 words per minute and can appreciate other's strengths and his laugh will get you through a bad mood in a hurry.

Oh, and he has something called K-T.

This link was emailed to me from someone on the K-T listserve. Children's Hospital in Boston is one of the few places that has done research and treated many K-T patients (the other being the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN). It's really informative, so if you're interested, read on....

Friday, July 4, 2008

Me? Competetive?

At the festivities after our neighborhood July 4th Parade, I was challenged to a sack race by my son, and my friend Judy kindly recorded my shame for posterity....

Notice that I am slightly larger than the competition.

Oh, yeah. Feeling confident....

I'm ahead, I'm ahead!

Teenyweenies, I leave you in my dust! HAH!

Hold on a second. I just had...to....catch....my.........breath....

Watch out, kid, I'm coming from behind. You are no match for me AND MY HAIR!

At the finish line! Yeah! The last time I looked so radiant in a Gunne Sack was at my high school prom circa 1978. (I know, it's a different spelling, but go with it, m'kay! I'm trying to be clever, here.)

HeadSong Friday: American Tune

Ya know, I thought about some Sousa, but I figured you'd all get enough of that without me piling more on your plate. I wanted to do something rousing and patriotic, but this one kept creeping through my head. And since it is HeadSong Friday, well, I knew what I had to do.

I have always loved this song. It gets me every time. It reminds me of my dad, it reminds me of people I've known that work so hard, and never give up. Even when they know that hard work isn't going to do anything but keep them busy until the shit hits the fan. They just plug along and do their best, and get ready for another day.

Words & music by Paul Simon

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it's all right, it's all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune
Oh, and it's alright, it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest

Take care of your families today. Stay safe. And remember to put your right hand over your heart on the left side when they play The Star Spangled Banner. Oh, and eat as much potato salad as you want. Because spuds will do right by you, every damn time.

Happy 4th, people.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Duck and Cover

Found this on Wisebread.com:

Amount of fireworks sold to individuals for personal celebrations in 2006: 252 million pounds

Amount of fireworks sold to individuals for personal celebrations in 2000: 102 million pounds

Total dollar amount spent on fireworks in 2007: 900 million dollars

Total dollar amount spent on fireworks in 2000: 350 million dollars

And according to a report by the Consumer Products Safety Commission:

CPSC staff has reports of 11 fireworks-related deaths during 2007. Five people were killed in incidents involving aerial and display fireworks. Three people died in fires where fireworks were the ignition source. Three people were killed as a result of manufacturing or storing illegal fireworks. CPSC staff has reports of 11 fireworks-related deaths in 2006.

Fireworks were involved in an estimated 9,800 injuries treated in U. S. hospital emergency departments during calendar year 2007 (95 percent confidence interval 7,700 – 11,800). CPSC staff estimated that there were 9,200 fireworks-related injuries during 2006.

An estimated 6,300 fireworks-related injuries (or 64 percent of the total fireworks-related injuries) were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments during the one-month special study period between June 22, 2007 and July 22, 2007 (95 percent confidence interval 4,500 – 8,100). CPSC staff estimated that there were 6,400 fireworks-related injuries (70 percent of the total) during the 2006 special study period.

Emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries display a statistically significant upward trend from 1996 to 2007.
Results from the special study include the following:

Of the injuries sustained, 70 percent were to males and 30 percent were to females.

Injuries to children were a major component of total fireworks-related injuries with children under 15 accounting for 42 percent of the estimated injuries. Children and young adults under 20 had 54 percent of the estimated injuries.

Among different types of fireworks, sparklers were associated with the greatest number of estimated injuries at 1,100. There were 1,000 injuries associated with firecrackers and 900 associated with rockets.

The parts of the body most often injured were hands (estimated 2,000 injuries), eyes (1,400 injuries) and legs (1,200 injuries).

More than half of the injuries were burns. Burns were the most common injury to all parts of the body except the eyes and head area, where contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies in the eye occurred more frequently.

Most patients were treated at the emergency department and then released. An estimated 5 percent of patients were treated and transferred to another hospital or admitted to the hospital.

"What's causing all this patriotic mayhem", you ask? Well, according to Yahoo News:
Last year, July 4th was the biggest beer-selling holiday of the year, with beer sales at supermarkets across the country topping 23 million cases during the holiday period, according to The Nielsen Company.

And I think pretty much all of that happened within a two block radius of my house.

In case you've forgotten, I think private fireworks should be banned.