Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Little Gestures

I'm sometimes surprised at the effect a simple action can have. We know of one anology or another regarding this phenomenon. The whole 'a butterfly fluttering its wings can start an earthquake in China' trope we've heard a bunch of times, but nonetheless seems to be true. Every once in a while I decide to flutter my wings in a good way. Sometimes its giving twenty bucks to the homeless person in the grocery store parking lot, other times its giving all my spare change to the salvation army collectors during Christmas. And then of course, there's my fund raising for George Mark House.

But no where does my little fluttering have as big an impact as when I participate in the Tomato Nation Donors Choose fundraiser. Because its not just me, its thousands of people like me turning out for a cause, to help public schools and school teachers with much needed funding. Together, with all the others that donate, I get to say that I'm part of a movement that has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good cause.

This year, the fundraiser is done a little differently. Before, Tomato Nation just listed a bunch of projects she wanted funded, with all the projects equallng the sum of money she wanted to raise for the whole month. I always found something on the list I liked and would donate 20 or 25 bucks or if I have the means to, close out a project. Last year, I donated 75$ to a special needs project and I couldn't have been more thrilled. The thank you notes alone had me coasting on happy thoughts for month. Just recently I completed a project to send a group of first graders to The Nutcracker. The thank you notes were adorable construction paper gingerbread men with lovely thank yous from the students written inside. I keep them in a special drawer, they are that important.

This year is a little different. Any of Sar's fans that wanted to, could create a giving page and attach it to her fund raising efforts. So I did. I picked only special needs projects because after everything that happened with my son, it seemed like the right thing to do. I created the giving page in his honor and named it for one of his best attributes, his heart.

(Here the full link, just in case: http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/viewChallenge.html?id=156315&max=25)

It was a small gesture. It cost me absolutely nothing, it was completely painless and hassle free and it was a way to honor my son. What could be better? Well I was about to find out.

I hadn't expected a lot from it to be honest. I had two teachers who asked if I'd add their projects. I did that and gave them a couple of bucks. I figured that's all it would raise, and I was fine with that. Then all of the sudden, a wonderful donor closed out three of the projects I selected, and it became part of my giving page total. Then my husband gave. And then a co-worker. It's not even April yet and this little giving page has raised over 200 bucks and closed out four projects. According to Donor's Choose 79 students have been reached, just by my having put a giving page together.

But the story gets better. Awhile back I did a survey for donor's choose and as a thank you, they gave me 5 $25 gift certificates to give to my friends. I sent one to my husband, to my mom, and a coworker and the other two I sent to the two teachers who e-mailed me with kind words for my giving page. One of the teachers recieved her certificate today and has already put it to her project and is almost funded! I am totally thrilled. All these little acts seem to be having a big impact and that's amazing.

I want you to keep one thing in mind, this fundraiser is set to start in April! It's not even April yet and my giving page has raised just close to 250 bucks. The entire total for all of the giving pages for the fundraiser is close to $5000!

Imagine what will happen when our wings really start fluttering.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Big Step

I did something kind of momentous, at least it was for me. I sent out a sample of my book to a literary agent. It was the last, and relatively small step I've been meaning to do since I finished my book a year and a half ago. And yet it was huge.

I don't talk about the book much, here or anywhere else, mostly cause Chris has me so paranoid that it could be stolen at any moment that I'm scared for anybody to look at it. Its also partly because I'm so tied up in it that I don't want to write about it, afraid of sharing too much. But its something important to me, mostly because its the only piece of fiction work I've actually had the wherewithal to complete. I love writing creatively, but aside from the odd short story or rambling essay, I haven't had the true compunction to finish writing anything bigger than a few pages.

Then Ukiah came along and changed all that. I was so inspired by what he went through and so motivated by not just his story but his spirit, that I felt it necessary to write it all down and put is somewhere. It's a piece of work I like to call partly autobiographical, partly science fiction. It's not Ukiah's story, in case you're wondering, but he's in there. It's not all about his medical trials and tribulations, but they are in there too. It's about so much more than that. Like all great books, I believe it takes a new and irreverent look at the human experience, and I think that's really what writers want to do. We just want to provide a thread to the tapestry of life.

And so yesterday I knowingly and willfully gave a piece of that thread to a literary agent clear across the country. All my hopes and dreams for the future are in the fed-ex box headed East. Yesterday I tweeted "Just left my future in the hands if a kinko's guy. Bye-bye writing sample for lit agent! Do me proud!" then I promptly entered my prenatal yogo class, picked a card my teacher hands out for the day containing affirmations, and saw that I picked the Surrender card. Basically, the card stated, I need to surrender to the fates whatever happens now. Apt, for what I'd just done. There's not much else I can do but surrender. I did my best. I scoured and cleaned my writing sample to within an inch of its life. I rewrote and rewrote sections. I checked and double checked the query letter and now all I can do is wait.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or the day after that. Maybe the lit agent will read the first 50 pages, become intrigued and then ask for the rest. Maybe I'll get a form rejection letter saying better luck next time. Maybe my package will get lost in freaky plane accident a la The Castaway, and will be adrift out to sea for a decade until somebody brings it back. All I know is I have to try. I have to get someone to see the beauty in what I wrote, so the outside world will. Also, apparently, I have to surrender.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scar Tissue

When I'm trying to describe what the aftermath of losing my son is like, I often use a lot of gritty morbid metaphors. I don't think anybody is fully going to understand the scope of losing a child unless they do it themselves. There are just so many things that thanks to the limits of the English language, I just will not ever be able to put into words correctly. But I try to paint a picture. I mean, I'm a writer, that's what I do.

I once had to describe to my mother what it was like living in my house without my son. The best analogy I could come up with is that immediately after having him and finally getting to bring him home. It's was as if a bomb of toys, and teeny socks, and pacifiers went off and the debris of that bomb was spread everywhere. Every room of the home, so many nooks and crannies of our cars were even filled with things for him. It was a bomb I didn't mind and actually kind of loved. There wasn't an aspect of our home that wasn't inundated with his presence. When he died, we quietly, diligently, but sadly went about the process of picking up the debris he left behind. Some things I was pretty good about parting with. I donated one of his two cribs without too much attachment, gave a bunch of his toys to his physical therapy department (we still have tons of stuff that was his). Somethings were too 'radioactive' to move or even touch. The footstool/storage bin in the living room is still filled to the brim with books and toys that were his most used. The crib in our room hasn't budged an inch since Chris first assembled it. The bin of toys sitting on Chris's nightstand is something we both refuse to move from its rightful spot. Neither of us have vocal said so, but its just something we know we won't move just the same. There are other things I feel I should get rid of, and am paralyzed to do so sometimes. I have this little box on the bathroom counter filled with hair doodads and makeup. Somehow, his little toothbrush is in it. I can't move it, hell I cry just trying to touch it. In the same box, there was a little filter belonging to one of the feeding systems we used to feed him via a port in his stomach. A few months ago, I found it, knew I should throw it out, couldn't, and started sobbing. That's all in effort to say that we are contaminated with Ukiah radioactivity that we will never willfully be rid of, and to me that's a good thing, wierdly.

The other metaphor I  use to better describe the state of things, my state of things, is that losing a child  is a lot like having been a cardiac bypass recipient. My father had one close to fifteen years ago, so I know of what I speak I guess. First of all, you come out the other side, and you're not really the same. Sure you do things in essence of feeling and acting normal and like you were before all this happened, but in truth, you're not really, and you're never going to be. You walk around with this deep scar on your chest that nobody knows about, or sees immediately.  But it's there, and you can always feel it, you're always aware of it.

My big issue at this stage (other than pregnancy hormones and nausea) is that I end up revealing that chest wound in really strange ways sometimes. Today, I had to get some blood drawn for my prenatal blood panel. No big deal, or so I thought. The whole morning I'm fine, its business as usual, no big deal. Then I get to the blue padded blood drawing chair and I start to get anxious. I hate needles, I hate watching my blood get drawn, I hate the weird rubber band thingies, I hate making fists. I can't stand any of it. And then suddenly. I was struck be this thought of the multiple times my son had his blood drawn, and the multiple attempts at threading an IV into his vein, and the one hospital stay where they put in an arterial IV as well and were deciding whether or not to sew in a PIC line and all the utter shit he went through and never had a say in and I lost it. I not only showed my scars to my phlebotomy technician, I felt as if I had reopened them and started bleeding on her. I hate being that visible about this, and yet, embarrassingly enough, I'm achingly visible. I sometimes feel I'm begging to show them to anyone who wants to see. Maybe I'll grow out of that impulse and things will get easier. Maybe those wounds will ache less and I'll feel more inclined to keep them under wraps. It's hard for me to say.