Tuesday, December 11, 2012


The other night I dressed up fancy and took Toby to his first Holiday dance with Nordquist, the ballroom dance program that he just started in October and that Harry was a part of for the four years previous. Harry came with us, spiffed out in his Steampunk bowler and goggles, vest and bow tie. Toby was in his suit, with the addition of pocket bling (a silky blue hankerchief). It was lovely to watch my youngest man dancing the box step with adorable little girls (and some bigger ones, too) in stockings, white gloves and pretty dresses. He even danced with me (as did Harry, who spent the evening tripping the light fantastic with old friends). A treat.

The truth is, what I really wanted to do that night, the night after returning home with Mark and Ben from Los Angeles, was to curl up in a ball under a big cozy quilt with my whole family and fall asleep. I didn’t want to have to make small talk. I didn’t want to have to go out in the world. I didn’t want to think or be polite. But, I did it anyways…being a mama oftentimes (I almost said sometimes—ha!) requires me to do what needs to be done, rather than what I’d prefer to do.

The aftereffects of Ben’s latest hospital drama are so familiar, and this time, rather than push through and do everything, I am trying to honor the messages from my mind and body as much as I can. I have thought so many times in the past seven years about the time post-brain surgery when I looked back first at about a month, then three months, then six and so on, each time thinking, “Sure is amazing how well I thought I was doing last time I checked. Now, I’m doing so much better!” Each time I realized with greater clarity how far I had come, and how long the process actually was. Saturday night at Nordquist, after telling an old friend about what we’d just been through, she said, “But…but…you look great!” Meaning, “How come you don’t look beaten down and falling apart?”

Friday Ben and Mark and I flew into Oakland from LA. Ben insisted that we stop in Chinatown on our way home to pick up dim sum from a few of the Chinese deli’s there. Mark raised our boys on all the treats in those shops and since moving away from the Bay Area, our family finds any time passing through Oakland to be a time to stop in Chinatown and fill up a cooler with shumai and pork buns. (Did I mention that Sonoma county has a dearth of good Asian food?) We arrived home a couple hours later laden with pink and white bakery boxes and all sat down at the table for dinner. The brothers had a joyful reunion, everyone wanted to sit near each other, there was so much smiling and laughing, and I was full of relief and love.

About an hour later, everyone had dispersed to their various chill time activities and Facebook updates, and Harry came to tell me, eyes brimming with tears, how upset he was that Ben had already started being harsh with Toby who was only wanting to hang out with him while Ben played his new video game. There had been a lot of bickering before all of this unraveled a week and a half before, and Harry was despondent that, “We’ve just gone right back to all that arguing. Why can’t Ben be nice? Toby and I didn’t fight the whole time he was gone!” It came out after a bit of unpeeling, that Harry was feeling quite blue and he didn’t know why.

Another hour later and Toby came to see me, eyes brimming with tears, unhappy that Ben had excluded him from a game he was playing, that he’d promised to play with him. More than anything he wanted Ben to spend time with him.

I went down to see Ben, but my heart was torn. I completely understood Toby and Harry’s grief after over a week of worrying about their brother, wanting nothing more than a nice, long, happy connection. I also felt that Ben, who had his birthday ripped right out of his hands when his surgical wound started leaking, who had just spent a week in the hospital and had had two surgeries, deserved the space to call his own shots, play anything he wanted, with or without whomever he wanted and not have to worry about anyone else’s needs. And, I also understood that Harry and Toby had held it all in and together for the five days they were on their own while I was in LA (I stayed past the two days I’d originally planned to stay AND in the process missed Harry’s 19th birthday) and they had to let those feelings, those very BIG feelings, out. Thank goodness Mama came home! Somewhere to unload!

I held all of their hearts tenderly in my hands. I listened and hugged and respected their wants and needs, while trying to help them see each others’ perspectives. I listened to Ben when he said Toby was spoiling the story line in his game and helped him to see that his brothers just missed him so terribly that they wanted to play with him. I encouraged him to make some time, in the future, to be with them. I helped Harry unravel the conflicting feelings he had about his birthday being missed by the family, about having to grow up and be an adult before he felt completely ready (which he did, by the way, with flying colors), and about the let down following such a huge and traumatic event.

And after sharing this story with a dear friend she said, “Well, no wonder you’re exhausted!”

Mark and I have come home and collapsed every night since Friday. We’ve hit the hot tub every morning and evening. My body is aching like I was in a car accident: neck, shoulders, back, hips, hands, arms, head. My gut feels bloated and of course, chocolate has been on the menu a bit too much. I suppose I have been in an accident. An emotional car wreck. It’s amazing I’m not black and blue.

I could keep writing and tell you about the week at Shriners LA. I could tell you about our wonderful surgeon there, Dr. Cho. I could tell you about the nurses and our family and friends surrounding us with love and care. But that will have to wait for another time.

For now, I will go rest and nurture myself and my kids and save my energy for healing.

Harry dancing with a friend Saturday night.
Toby dancing with his mama. So sweet! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Déjà Vu

I really didn’t want to have to start like this. I really meant to write after things had settled down and Ben was feeling fine. Some of you might have been waiting to hear the post-operative good news. It took a little longer this time. He had trouble with the anesthesia in the days following surgery. Vicious headaches and nausea every time he sat up. The 10 hours of travel home from Philly less than 72 hours post-op were not a breeze. But he did come out of it. We did have some great days. And now I’m sorry I didn’t write when I had the chance.

Because yesterday, which was, incidentally Ben’s 15th birthday, yesterday everything changed and now what I have to tell you is that in a few hours Ben is going in for his twelfth surgery at Shriners Los Angeles. His surgical wound has not healed, is leaking a clear fluid, and is swollen. He and Mark arrived in LA early this morning and headed straight to the hospital where the doctors were expecting them.

 Yesterday morning I felt possessed. I awoke early and after checking emails saw, with some surprise, that our friends and family had already started wishing Ben “Happy Birthday!” on his Facebook page. “What kind of a mother am I who isn’t the first one on the planet realizing it’s her child’s birthday?” I thought. Not that I hadn’t known it was his birthday. We’d already had the celebratory dinner a couple days early (scheduling conflicts!) and we’d been talking about it and his party was happening on Friday night. But, How is it, I asked myself, that I could awaken and not just know it…my first realization, my first thought? I pondered what I was going to do to make his day special.

I didn’t always leave birthday planning to the last minute. I used to shop and think and plan, plan, plan. It’s not my fault really, it’s Mark’s. And since I have recently rhapsodized about Mark’s saintly qualities, I can say this openly. Mark isn’t very good at birthdays or Chanukah or Valentine’s Day. My most incredibly generous husband doesn’t care much about them, so he doesn’t think about them (avoids them?)…until the last minute when there’s no denying the fact that they’ve arrived. After 21 years of marriage, I am much the same at least in the thinking ahead department. (The other person’s birthday, that is. My birthday? Oh, I care about that!)

So yesterday after realizing it really was Ben’s birthday and there was no denying it, the wheels started turning…what to do, what to do?

About 45 minutes later I was on my way to Santa Rosa to do some last minute shopping. The rain was in Biblical flood mode. I’ve rarely seen it so torrential. I asked myself, “What are you doing driving in this weather? Do you want to be the mom who dies in a car accident on the way to buy her son a video game because she was too stupid to plan ahead? Is that the legacy you want to leave?” The answer, of course, was no, but I kept on. Determined. Mission-focused. I will be safe. I will be safe. I drove a bit farther back from the cars ahead and I drove cautiously. “What is going on with you?” I asked myself. “Why is this so important?” And the only answer I had was that I had a driving need to do something SOMETHING and I knew I wanted to make him smile and feel loved and cared for and it wasn’t going to happen without this effort.

I got to BestBuy and found it not yet open. On to Old Navy to buy t-shirts, on to Trader Joe’s to buy brownie mix (even though he said he didn’t want any special treats) for a little birthday celebration at his teen meditation class’ last meeting of the year. Finally back to BestBuy to pick up the lastest hot blow’em up Xbox game. (Here I had to just swallow my motherly pinched expression…this is his game, not my game…let it go.) I was done in 45 minutes. I turned around and headed back to Sebastopol, for one more stop: our favorite bagel store. 20 minutes later, a dozen pizza bagels in hand, I was on my way home.

The house was silent and warm when I walked in. My three homeschooled boys were peacefully snoozing and I had time to wrap his presents, make myself some breakfast, and slice the bagels before the house woke up.

When Ben finally emerged from his room at about noon the fun began. He was totally surprised that I got him the game, he loved and then donned the silly t-shirt, and he ordered two pizza bagels toasted with cream cheese for, um, brunch. All three brothers went off to play the new game and I started baking brownies. About 45 minutes later the power went off. Remember the Biblical deluge? Well, trees went down and power lines with them so we had no power. No video games. No oven. No heat. No landlines. Hmmm.

It was at that moment when everything changed, that moment when Harry said, “Ben, why do you have a wet spot on your back?”

I looked, he looked. We all stood there while Ben felt his surgical wound and said, “I don’t know…”

When he pulled off his shirt and peeled back the medical tape loosely covering his incision I could see clear fluid dripping out, I would say slowly, but honestly, one does not want to see fluid dripping out at any speed, so it looked like too much too fast. Drip…drip…drip…The area around where I imagine his hardware to be (the screws holding the rod to his lumbar vertebrae) was quite puffy, too. None of this was a good sign.

A little while later I was speaking with the on-call doctor at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. Back and forth back and forth, between him, Ben’s surgeon, Mark… “How soon can you get here?” he asked. Ummm…WHAT?! Dr. C really wanted to see Ben, to go back in and manage the situation himself. We grappled with all the ramifications of this. We checked flights. Mark cancelled appointments for the week ahead.

Luckily, though, Mark appealed to them to consider other options. For Ben and Mark to fly to Philly is a 10 hour adventure. In his condition that really seemed like a bad choice. “If this was your child, would you put him on a plane and fly across the country?” I asked the on-call doctor.

They listened to Mark. Dr. C contacted cohorts at the Shriners in LA and arranged for a team to be ready for Ben this morning. We booked flights to LA. We had a couple meltdowns. For the second time in about two weeks we packed the hospital suitcase.

Late last night, after putting everyone to bed, Mark and I cuddled and talked about the strange path of the day. I told him how possessed I had been in the morning to do something special for our boy, and how glad I was that I had. If he hadn’t been wearing that new shirt, if he hadn’t been playing Xbox with his brothers, if the power hadn’t gone out and he hadn’t sat up and Harry hadn’t noticed the wet spot…when would we have figured it out? And if I hadn’t gotten him the game the brothers wouldn’t have had the sweet pleasure of rushing back to the TV after the power clicked back on three hours later. Brotherly bonding over blowing things up, especially when you’re feeling the full force of the loss of control of your life, nothing quite holds a candle to that.

The strange part is that the moment when Harry noticed the wet spot…we’ve been there before. That rushed me right back to when we discovered Ben’s sudden scoliosis at his 8 year well-check seven years ago. I’ll never forget that moment. All of this, the weeping wound about 2 weeks post surgery, rushing back to the hospital for another surgery, wet spots on pillows, calls to doctors and anxious waiting, is all too familiar. That time it ended up with two months in the hospital waiting and trying everything to get that damned wound to heal. This is different in some ways, but the familiarity is scary. Even Ben asked me last night, "Am I going to end up in the hospital for another two months?" And the truth is I think not, but I don't absolutely know.

Despite a day gone quickly downhill, our birthday boy shined with courage last night. At dinner his brothers were anxious about what was going to happen. Harry gets prickly. Toby gets goofy. They started fighting with each other. Ben, the middle brother, who is not usually a peacekeeper, but more of a fire-starter or pot-stirrer, spoke up: “Guys,” he said, “you don't need to worry. I will be fine. I will come back. This surgery is not very serious and it’s certainly less serious than the ones I usually have. And those aren’t very serious. So you don't have to worry. OK?” I thought he was going to say, “Hey! Why are you upset? Who’s the guy who has something to be upset about???” But no. He was beautiful. Glowing. I gazed at him all through dinner.

So instead of arguing or panicking, we ate take out burritos for dinner and had a pile of donut holes with three candles in them for dessert. We sang happy birthday almost in tune. We laughed. A lot. Ben was hilarious. So were they all. They keep me in stitches…

After dinner I took him to his meditation class. He was glad that he and “Dada” didn't need to leave until morning to get to LA. On the way home he was cracking me up. I was amazed. "I can't believe you are so funny in the midst of all of this," I said. "Are you kidding?" he said. "I can't focus on the bad stuff! Fuck that shit!" 


I will keep you posted, good or bad. Promise.

Friday, November 16, 2012

no matter how many times I go through this

No matter how many times I go through this, it does not seem to get easier. I can tell myself that he’ll be fine, I can tell myself that it’s a minor surgery. I see him even push me away this time saying, “Mom! Don’t make such a big deal out of this.” And yet.

Wednesday I lay curled on the bed, sobbing. Doing just the most mundane tasks, driving Toby to Hebrew school and making dinner, seemed out of my reach. The last possible thing I could imagine doing. I listened to my favorite Jewish music and I reread my last blog post and I sobbed. Wednesday was the day before surgery.

Despite that emotional day, I couldn’t get to sleep that night. Knowing I’d be up in a few hours to “talk” to Ben as he taxied to the hospital, made it hard to relax. At 3 am my cell phone alarm roused me from a dose. It was 6 am in Philly and I texted Ben as he and Mark made their way through the dark early morning streets to the hospital.

This time around our textversation was not nearly as involved as other times. Ben was much more removed emotionally in the weeks, days and minutes leading up to this surgery. Perhaps it’s his age (almost 15) or just the sheer number of times he’s gone through this, or maybe it’s the fact that Shriners does a good job of making sure he doesn’t have a harrowing experience in their hands. Or maybe it’s his state of denial working overtime, and being with a dad who is just so steady state…I’m the one who worries, not Mark. Whatever it was, he did not spend any energy on worry this time around. And, though I don’t want him to be someone who buries his feelings, I ask you, what is the point of worrying?

This time around Ben arrived at the hospital, the waiting area for the OR and probably even the OR itself without anxiety. He was so calm that he didn’t need me for moral support. Our textversation was fairly light, fairly sporadic between 3 am and 4:30 am when they wheeled him away and texted our last goodbyes for the time being. I turned off my phone and fell into fitful sleep, waking only briefly a couple hours later when Mark texted me to tell me Ben was out of surgery and on his way to the recovery room.

Twelve hours later they were in a taxi on their way back to the hotel. Ben’s had a harder time with the after-effects of the anesthesia this time around. Headaches and vomiting. Unusual for him. But other than that he doesn’t have any pain or discomfort. And tomorrow the dynamic duo will board a plane bound for home. Halleluyah!

No matter how many times I go through this, I don’t seem to have good recall. Day before you’ll be feeling quite anxious. Day of you’ll be exhausted. Day after you’ll be fighting off depression. If I took the time to look back over my blog posts I’d remember each step, but I don’t so here I am writing another post about how depressed I am today, the day after the surgery, when I should be happy he’s doing so well. Instead I’m hung over with the day after blues. All that energy focused on making it through the surgery then seems to filter into a dark gray cloud overhead holding just a boundariless ennui. No energy for anything. No spirit. No lightness of being. And every single time I am reminded again how I hate being across the country from my baby. I can’t even say “when he’s in pain” but I can say when I should be tending to him. Not having him near but knowing he needs some amount of tending to drives me to the brink of...of what? Anxiety? Insanity? Panic? No, no, no. Frustration. Twitchy unfocused frustration.

We have not heard from the surgeon yet about the correction achieved. Mark said it looked good when Ben went for xrays. We shall see. Until then, we shall just be where we are: on the other side of surgery #11.

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I write this to share my story, but I write this to process my story, too. I leave a trail of words, so that I can better understand my journey and so that, coming upon it in the future, my children will better understand our journey. And you, fair reader, also participate, because the words you leave me at the end, if you do, buoy me, comfort me, and tell me that my words are universal words.Thank you!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mark and Ben

Ben gets ready for a poker game in the Children's Hospital PICU with Cousin Yosef, Daddy, and Uncle Barrett. The game went late but the nurses were so happy to see Ben happy that they let the guys stay one hour past Visiting hours. March 2006.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

Ben and Mark went off to Philly again today. Thursday he’ll undergo his 11th surgery.


This is a minor surgery. This is a lengthening of the 17” titanium rod nestled in Ben’s back. In May, at his last lengthening, Dr. Cahill thought he hadn’t gotten much adjustment, but surprisingly achieved a 16 degree correction. In the time intervening, Ben's spine went right back to where it had been, about 55 degrees. Who knows what will happen this time? But, both Ben and I have a feeling this is the last lengthening and the next surgery will be the Big One. Fusion.

More on that later.

What I really want to tell you about is Mark and Ben.

In 2006, Ben, age 8, went into Children’s Hospital, Oakland for brain surgery and Mark insisted that he would be the parent at bedside. It was only going to be a week. I would stay at my mom's house about five minutes from the hospital. Little did we know what that would mean long term. 

What does it take to be that parent, the Hospital Parent? Mark holds his feelings in (which has it’s downsides, but in the hospital isn’t such a bad thing), can wake up and go back to sleep easily, isn’t squeamish, is good with technology, and stands his ground. He won the round. He was the best choice for HP.

As Ben’s one surgery turned into four and his one week in the hospital turned into two months, Mark learned to sleep in a hospital, which is not so different from a war zone. He spent 40 days and 40 nights at Ben’s bedside at CHO. He slept cramped onto the most uncomfortable chair bed. He was at Ben’s side during terrifying and painful nighttime procedures, he was there to chase away nurses who were insistent on bothering Ben. He was there to notify them when the IV bag seemed to have a different antibiotic in it than before…and yep, he was there when they hurriedly changed said bag for the right one. When Ben's monitors would beep and wake them up, Mark could fix that beep, he could figure out a malfunctioning monitor faster than the nurse could get there from her station. When Ben was confined to his bed and had to "go" Mark would hold the pee bottle. Together they watched ridiculously inappropriate TV (Family Guy and the Simpsons and Blazing Saddles). But most importantly, he was there, without fail, for his son in the hardest of all times we could imagine.

Ben is incredibly lucky. All of our boys are, of course. Mark is an amazing father. He is reliable and loyal and honest and generous. He’s also hilarious, brilliant, and loving. He’s responsible and dependable and clever, too. And he’s unfailing the best dad and husband I know. Yes, we are all lucky to have him.

But from one surgery to the next he has forged a connection with Ben that is unique to the two of them. Because of the difficult path Ben has to walk in his life, Mark has had the occasion to sleep at bedside many more nights at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, where Ben is treated for scoliosis. (You can read about it here, here, here, here and here.) He also is there with him in the hotel, where Ben recovers before returning home. The beds are without question more comfortable and the bathroom more luxurious at the Ritz. But the work is essentially the same: care unhesitatingly for his child who is in pain…again.

Years ago, after Ben had done something (now hilarious in retrospect) out of line (run away to a neighbors backyard to jump on their trampoline or cut his hair to the quick or escaped from the house to toddle down to the major busy street, you know, something like that!) Mark called his mom to tell her, “Mom, I just want you to know Ben is my payback.” She reportedly laughed for ten minutes at that. Mark was not the easiest child. His basic rule of thumb was: “Don’t ask. If you ask they’ll say no. Just do it.” And yes, that is exactly how Ben thinks.

Ben and Mark are both pragmatic. They are strategic. They have sophisticated, sarcastic senses of humor, but are also moved by stories of compassion and kindness. Lest you think Ben is hard-nosed, you should know that he loves young children and animals, is, in fact, a magnet for both. Mark is one of the few men I’ve ever known who loves babies. He loves holding them, changing diapers, cuddling them. He even loved waking in the night to hand them to me for a feeding. He was never impatient for our own babies to grow up. He would have breastfed them, if he could.

For the past seven years Mark has demonstrated one aspect of his devotion to his family by being the Hospital Parent. He holds that safe space for Ben keeping the storm at bay. Mark is there for Ben like an anchor. No matter how violent the wind and waves, Mark is security. You will not float away. You will survive this.

The first time they traveled without me I was beyond anxious. It was the first time I had not been at Ben’s side when he was wheeled into the OR. It was the first time I wasn’t with my baby as he headed into another life-or-death experience. The night before that surgery Ben called me from Philly. “Mama,” he said in a voice that sounded much younger than his 12 years. “You have to come be with me. You have to get on a plane right now and fly here so that you can be with me in the morning. I can’t do this without you.” That call chilled me. What could I do? I looked at Harry and Toby, their faces pulled with worry over their brother. Technically, I couldn’t fly there anyways, it was too late. But honestly, I couldn’t leave my other boys one more time, either.

When Ben returned from that trip he said he never wanted to do that again, travel for surgery without his mama. But, by the time the next one rolled around, he couldn’t imagine going through a surgery without Mark at his side. We can’t afford financially for both parents to go, and we can’t afford emotionally either. Someone needs to stay home with Toby and Harry. A choice needs to be made. Bring Mama who will potentially faint at the sight of an exposed surgical wound? Bring Mama who wears her emotion out in front, cries easily and…is your mama…making it possible for you to cry easily, too? Nope, better to bring Dad, the guy with all those hospital bedside skills and who keeps the mushy stuff tucked down deep inside.

Ben and Mark now have their routine, their rituals for their time in Philly. On the way to the airport they stop in Chinatown for dim sum take out to devour on the plane. While in Philly they visit Reading Terminal Market more than once for pulled pork sandwiches or Thai food or other streetfood delicacies. They watch Comedy Central, all the raunchy stuff I’d never stomach, they both love. And now, since Mark is Ben’s math tutor, they’ll work on Algebra and Biology homework as well. (Is that a downside...taking your tutor with you?)

If you saw them on the way to Philly, you’d never know they were heading to another surgery. They’re two peas in a pod. They're both flirting with the cute babies on the plane.They’re laughing and joking and side by side playing games on their phones or iPods.  Ben has grown up with Mark during these trips. Their bond is obvious.

Mark had a very strong tie with his own dad. It was not complicated or overly emotional. Mark didn’t question it, their connection was a given. Many of Mark’s incredible qualities as a father and husband are behaviors he learned from watching his dad, and some, like with Mark and Ben, seem to just be innate character traits. And that love of babies? That's something Grandpa Norman passed to his son and grandson. Such a lovely trait in a man.

What Ben and Mark have is so deep and so critical. Mark has gone to the cliff with Ben now so many times that Ben has known repeatedly the raw love Mark has for him. Ben’s most important role model has shown him unswervingly what commitment is, what love is, what a father does for his child. It is a powerful gift. And I know this: it will carry Ben through life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

And Noah Waited

This past weekend I attended my synagogue's biannual Women's Retreat. I was on the planning committee, I led all the music for services and I delivered the "drash" or sermon at Saturday morning's Shabbat service. It was a heartfelt weekend. The community we build at these retreats sends ripples out in my life. I will write more about the experience in a future blog post, but for now, here's my drash. The theme for the weekend was "liminal moments" and the Torah portion for the week was Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32).  
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“And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
~ T.S. Eliot

Last weekend I celebrated my 50th birthday. If you’ve already hit 50 then you know how it feels to get there. If you haven’t, then you may think it sounds terribly old…I will say that, at least for me, there is something about it, something different. I felt that difference as my past year unfolded. It was as if the whole year preceding that 50th birthday was a kind of preparation. The many moments of introspection, of new perspectives, of fog clearing away (and believe me, as a women in menopause, the fog clearing away is no mean feat)…all of these seem to have led me to that day and then ushered me into this place I am now: the beginning of the next half century of my life!

The Torah marks the 50th year as a Jubilee year. “…and you shall hallow the fiftieth year,” it says in Leviticus. “That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines, for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field.”

The 50th anniversary is a golden anniversary and coming into last weekend’s celebrations for me, felt like a golden time, a golden moment. A liminal moment.

The concept of a liminal moment is popular in anthropology. Liminal moments can take many forms, but in general they are thresholds, thresholds for individuals, groups, entire civilizations. These moments can take place in a breath, an hour, a day or an epoch. Twilight is a liminal moment of time that comes every day, being born is a liminal moment that comes only once in each person’s life. A war is liminal for a country, or many, an “aha” moment is liminal for an individual who has just seen the light.

Rites of passage are liminal moments, as they mark the end of one period and the beginning of the next. We, in Judaism, have many and I’ve long felt that we are quite fortunate to be a people who still values the power of a ritual or a rite of passage to mark the various milestones in life, most importantly the bar/bat mitzvah, which marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, something that is lost to our general assimilated modern society but which is so wise and can be so profound. Havdalah is also a liminal rite, and quite meaningful in a world that has blurred the lines between the sacred and the secular.

I had never heard the term “liminal moment” before Rabbi Kramer brought it up at a Women’s Retreat Committee meeting last spring. I had never heard of it, but I had studied it for years. I am fascinated by liminal moments. I am quite interested in that period of “in between” that exists during transitions, a time that might stretch for months or years, with no apparent end in sight. Perhaps I am intrigued by these because I’ve encountered them so often in life and found the living through them to be so excruciating. Being in the moment when the moment is agonizingly painful, confusing, frightening, hopeful, electrifying, full of possibility, or even boring is an immense challenge. Changes seem to occur at these crossroads creating whole new paradigms in our lives. Imagining all the possibilities as we await the threshold-crossing-moment is oh-so-difficult. The unknown is a hard companion to sit with.

How was it then, for our hero Noah, the focus of our Torah portion this week? How did he manage to be within that twilight space…after the edict to build the ark, to collect the animals, to call together his sons and their wives… after the 40 days and nights of rain…after all that but before the next phase had begun? How did he manage to sit with the unknown?

“The ark drifted upon the waters” the Torah tells us. The entire earth was covered with water. As far as the eye could see. And “[o]nly Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”

Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

How quiet was it?

How terrifying?

All the turmoil that had come before, wiped out, obliterated by an extremely powerful and fed up God, fed up with the sins of mankind, but who chose to save one righteous individual, Noah, and his family. All that chaos that came before: GONE.

And then the water and the quiet. And the waiting.

I’m not talking about what the Lord said to Noah. I’m not talking about the floody-floody. Or the muddy muddy. I’m talking about the period in between when it was months and months of waiting for the storm to calm and the waters to recede.

Noah must have experienced that liminal moment as a man, a husband and a father, but also he experienced it for all humankind, did he not? He was our representative on Earth, living in that twilight moment, waiting to find out what comes after God’s mighty meltdown.

William Bridges, says in his book Making Sense of Transitions, that transitions involve 3 phases:
1)    an ending, followed by
2)    a period of confusion and distress, leading to
3)    a new beginning

If, in the first phase, you don’t acknowledge the ending, says Bridges, you can’t move forward toward a new beginning. A transition, then, is a very special thing. It begins with an ending.

Reading this on the tail of the first stories of Creation, we might think of Noah’s story as the “end of the beginning.”

The end of the beginning.

Bridges also says, “We have to let go of the old thing before we pick up the new—not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections with the people and places that act as definitions of who we are.”

Did Noah, looking back at the chaos from whence he came, did he think of it in that way? Did he take store of humankind’s sins and consider how he and his offspring would move forward to create a better world? Or, did he suffer in the silence, anxious about whether or not God would truly spare him after all this, the ark, the cubits, and the animals two by two? All the definitions Noah had were gone.

“The ark drifted on the waters” of what we might think of as a Neutral Zone, a place with no place and no time and no definitions.

As Noah and his crew floated out there, somewhere (who knows where?), they embodied that Neutral Zone for all humanity. It’s Phase 2 of Bridges’ transition triumvirate, “…a strange no-man’s land between one world and the next…,” “…a low pressure area…a vacuum left by the loss…” During this period of waiting, this confusing and disorienting time, what did Noah think about? How did he feel? Was he afraid? Was he lonely?

In her book The Beginning of Desire:Reflections on Genesis, Scottish contemporary Torah scholar Avivah Gottleib Zornberg says that [in Noah] “…for the first time we are given a sense of human loneliness, as time is endured, as Noah waits for something new to begin…” and that Noah “prays to be saved from the prison of the his ark.”

“Noah,” she says, “like every faithful man,” prays to be saved from the “rushing mighty waters” [shetef mayim rabbim]; the undifferentiated dumb violence of the world just outside the prison of the ark. The prison is both the closed space of the ark and the too-great openness of the wild raging silence beyond.”

Just about seven years ago my family embarked on an odyssey when our middle son, Ben, then just 8 years old, was diagnosed with Chiari malformation type I. At his eight year well doctor’s visit he bent over for the scoliosis check and the sight of a huge lump (actually a hump) on his back caused me to literally leap up out of my chair. What came next were x-rays and MRI’s, urgent doctors appointments, calls and emails to everyone we knew for information about hospitals and neurosurgeons. Less than two months later we were sitting in the cafeteria at Children’s Hospital, Oakland while he underwent brain surgery for 10 hours.

What I didn’t know then was that that was the end of the beginning. We were entering a very long period of transition, one we still inhabit.

Those first months as we moved to the head of the class finding out more than you would ever want to know about brain surgery and cerebellar tonsils, those first months were only the tip of the iceberg of our period “floating on the waters.”  What was supposed to be a veritable “walk in the park” by neurosurgery standards became two months at his ICU bedside watching the doctors scratch their chins in puzzlement as he would not heal and would not heal...and would.not.heal. He endured four surgeries in those two months, though he was only supposed to have the one. He endured many more painful and frightening procedures during that time: needle pokes and blood draws, huge sticky bandages pulled off (quickly or slowly, it did not matter), stitches made without anesthesia. And I stood by, blowing cool air on his face, holding his soft little hand in mine, guiding his mind with images of Hawaiian beaches to calm him or superheroes to give him strength, organizing poker games for him with his loving uncles and dad, urging him to smile with ridiculously inappropriate TV and movies. It was a period of twilight for me, and I would agree with William Bridges’ assertion that time slows down in that zone.

What I didn’t know then was that because of the Chiari and the fluid pocket that had formed in his spinal cord, his spinal nerves had been compromised and the scoliosis he was left with would be severe. And require more surgeries.

Today, we still drift in those waters. They have not cleared as yet. In about three weeks Ben will head to Philadelphia with my husband, Mark, to have his 11th surgery, at Shriners Hospital for Children. He has been getting treatment there for the past three years, treatments that have held off spinal fusion and allowed his spine to continue to grow, but that have required him to spend more time in the hospital, more painful procedures, more time away from home. Within his back he has a 17 inch titanium rod and 5 staples. We have no idea when all this will end, or what it will end with.

Last summer, as we were approaching his 9th surgery I felt somehow that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was so drained, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually from the never-endingness of it all. Ben was drained too, and that of course was HUGE for me. Ben was suffering from bouts of depression and anger and his constant back aches caused my own back to ache and my heart to ache, as well.

But, last summer I was standing out by my pasture, breathing in the cool morning air and I was perseverating on it all. When would it end? What would happen to Ben? Where had my happy, healthy boy gone? What was it like to not be constantly worrying about a sick child? I was finding it incredibly hard to just be with my life, sit with the unknown. And then it hit me: This is your life. Be in it. Be in it right now.

That “aha” moment, or as I like to think of it, My Moment of Zen, really helped. It helped me accept the truth and to live in it with not only the courage to deal with it, but the courage to see that the only thing that I could do was stay in the present moment and accept it. The past needed to be let go. The future was on the other side of the threshold.

I believe it’s quite necessary to survive the liminal moments that feel like an eternity. I believe it’s important to look to the future, to imagine what will be. But I also believe that it requires great courage to stay with the pain and the fear and the racing heart in the moment, the moment that may be dark or foggy or so terribly unclear. It is within those moments that we have the potential to uncover the truth about who we are, what we are made of, and possibly even why we are there.

And then, there are times when we don’t find out the whys until long after the transition is past. Looking back on events in our lives is when we can count the blessings or see what we learned from that very taxing teacher.

And so, what about Phase 3? The new beginning?  What about after the floods receded and Noah threw open the doors of the ark to let the sun shine in? What then?

I can imagine that it was not easy to take the next step, down the gangplank, to the damp soil of Mt. Ararat. The Torah says “God spoke to Noah, saying, "Come out of the ark, together with your wife, your sons, and your sons' wives. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds, animals, and everything that creeps on earth; and let them swarm on the earth and be fertile and increase on earth." It might have been an obvious direction. But, perhaps, God noticed Noah’s hesitation. After all that waiting, after all that time spent on the waters, walking through that doorway might not have been anything short of Noah’s most courageous move.

According to Aviva Gottleib Zornberg, “What Noah experiences when he is released, is the subtle gratitude of one who now realizes the implications of where he was and where he is. The history of Noah is, then, the history of man’s first exercise in self-construction. Between the worlds of kindness and ecstasy, between closedness and openness," she says, "Noah reads and interprets the test of God’s words and of his own heart.”

“We come to beginnings only at the end,” William Bridges tells us, “…changed and renewed by the destruction of the old life-phase and the journey through the nowhere.”

Have you ever walked from one room to another, on an errand to pick up something but by the time you got there you had no idea what you had come for? Did you know that psychology researchers have a name for that? It’s called “the doorway effect” and what they have found is that walking through a doorway causes you to have a lapse in short-term memory. According to the Scientific American, “walking through a doorway is a good time to purge your event models because whatever happened in the old room is likely to become less relevant now that you have changed venues.”

How interesting.

And we have learned that liminal moments also seem to involve that same loss of memory, or what could be seen as a death. One definition I found said: “a liminal moment involves a metaphorical ‘death’, as the initiand is forced to leave something behind by breaking with previous practices and routines.”

We can view our lives as a linear series of chronological events and as circular, beginning leading to in-between leading to ending leading to in-between leading to beginning again. The seasons of the year are this, the cycle of water from particles in the atmosphere to rain to raging waters of a river to the vapors over the ocean are this as well. The holiday of Simchat Torah is a ritual we Jews have to acknowledge the cyclical journey we take through the lessons of the Torah every year, unrolling and rolling, reading, singing and dancing our love for the book we cherish.

Noah’s time spent drifting upon the waters came to an end with a beginning, a new beginning for humanity. After many, many months drifting there in that no-time-no-place the waters finally drew back, the land finally dried out and marching off the ark they all came, to begin again.

Today at 50, I am all that I was before I arrived here at this new phase in my life. I am the consummation of my experiences, the thresholds I have crossed, the pain I have felt, the mistakes I have made and the joy I have shared. The course of my life has meandered along like a river’s course and I can sit with the events the way they have unfolded, knowing that they have brought me to where I am today. No regrets, just gratitude.

In his book The Way of Transition, William Bridges says, “You can talk about transition in either context. In the linear context, it’s the segue between one life-segment and the next, as well as being the process that disengages us from the first phase, turns us around, and plugs us into the second phase. In the circular-journey context, transition is an analytical way of talking about the journey itself.”

I suppose that’s the key for me: the journey. I have always been less interested in the destination than I have been in the journey. My personal journey, Noah’s journey, the journey of humankind.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Importance of Digging

LEGO Bar Mitzvah boy made by Harry 

This piece has just been published in the HomeSchool association of California's monthly magazine. I thought I'd share it here, too...

When my oldest son, Harry, was in preschool (in the years before the idea of homeschooling was even a glimmer of an idea in our brains) we decided to keep him there for an extra year, to delay his entering kindergarten. We were not aiming to give him an academic edge, we just felt he needed another year of digging in the sandbox, another year of enjoying his passion.

Digging figured largely into his array of interests. Big diggers, shovels, sand, dirt. For years he collected information about all the large earthmovers. We had a sandbox, we went to the park and the beach. Dig dig dig. Holes and tunnels, moats, and waterways. When we moved to the country seven years later we lured him with images of acres of dirt to dig in and an old blue tractor he could learn to drive.

That passion for digging and machinery was closely linked to a love of Duplo, then Lego, trains, monster trucks, and…I’m sure none of this is particularly unfamiliar to you, right?
When building with Lego wasn’t enough (and by “building” I mean inventing new and amazing creations, not the ones from the instruction manuals, which were promptly lost and rarely built more than once; big Lego sets were for scoring huge quantities of cool pieces), Harry began to search the web for inspiration and found customized Lego. He learned to use a dremel and drilled miniscule holes into the sides and heads of mini-figs (little Lego people) into which he glued extra arms and horns. He bought and learned to use a sticker making machine to make new decals for the mini-fig faces and bodies as well. He ordered special parts and used them to create whole new categories of custom Lego pieces.

Recently, I was organizing some of our digital photo and video files and found “piles” of movies he’d made years ago with Lego stop-action animation, silly animated movies with action figures, and plain old silly kid comedies. I thought about the huge bins of foam swords and modified-Nerf guns cluttering every corner of our house. I thought about the three bins of “dress up” clothes we keep around for impromptu theatrical productions and the bin full of multicolored rolls of duck tape, mostly down to their last few feet. And then I thought about the wood scraps turned into boxes and frames, the PVC pipe turned into potato cannons and marshmallow shooters. Materials. Not only does Harry have a huge love for creating, he loves his supplies.

Many of Harry’s passions (one could call them obsessions) have an artsy-craftsy look. Beyond the Lego customization, he has delved into polymer clay, duck tape (he’s taught classes at the HSC conference several times and sold his duck tape rose pens at the MAKER faire once), chainmail, computer graphics, and PhotoShop. This kid is always coming up with a new hobby, a new outlet for all of his ideas, a new item to collect. At age 12 he reinvented one of our favorite games, River, Road and Rail (from Ravensburger), into a travel edition with magnetic board and pieces. He wrote an article about it which was published in MAKE magazine. Very cool for my budding inventor.

This passionate explosion of creativity has never looked orderly. After all, A.A. Milne said, “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” His room is chaotic, paper scraps, ruined duck tape pieces, and foam litter the hall outside his room, the rug under the project table (I mean, the dining room table), and the deck. Some projects are completed, some not. Harry is an odd kind of perfectionist who, unlike me who spends untold hours trying to choose the exact right font for a poster, expects things to be perfect the very first go. His work sometimes lacks precision and fine detail. But he’s often already on to the next invention, the next solution to a puzzle, the next opus, too busy to worry about that.

There was a time when I wondered what would come from this. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that this love of materials and building and creating would be able to manifest anything worthwhile. For some reason I looked past his constant stream of creations and forgot my mantra “it’s the process not the product that counts.” As he moved deeper into his teen years, I kept worrying about college and careers. I fretted, “What does all this Lego mean?” When I stepped back I could appreciate that creative energy that surged through him, but up close my academic sheriff was clacking in my ear about what hard-core subjects was he mastering and why wasn’t he interested in chemistry and when would he buckle down and study math?

And then one day a few years back I had a realization. He and I sat at the kitchen table chatting about the previous two weeks and what’d he’d been working on. I had been away dealing with a family matter, and we are unschoolers, so his time was his own then as always. What had he done? He’d Steampunked a Nerf gun, he’d created some goggles for his Steampunk costume, he’d worked on his chainmail tunic, he’d made something in his dad’s workshop in the basement, something about a saw. My brain was going straight to “What will he do for a living?” when suddenly it hit me.

Harry in his Frogoggles and a bleached design shirt.

“How would you like to check out some backstage theatre classes at the JC?” I asked him. “I think you would love making props, costumes and sets. And I think they would love you!” (I’ve always felt that one of the down-sides to homeschooling was the lack of a marching band, but it suddenly hit me that there was also a serious lack of a theatre arts department and had he attended a brick and mortar high school he’d definitely be hanging out there backstage!) Three months later he walked into the Props class ready to build props for the upcoming shows. He came home saying, “I sat there in that class tonight and realized this is what I want to do with my life.” At age 16 he was the youngest in the class, but he already knew his way around the power tools (see above) and even helped show some of the other students how to use them.

Now, two years later he has taken props (three times), set design, lighting, and acting (as well as anthropology, 3D art, American Sign Language, and more). He was the assistant props designer for two shows last year, the spot(light) op(erator) for a show the year before. He gets glowing reports from his theatre arts professors and knows that ultimately this is what he wants to do with his life.

(Interestingly, that lack of attention to detail? That’s the right mindset when creating on-stage props. Who can tell that a line is wiggly or a drip of paint escaped the outline from 40 - 100 feet away?)

He’s still bubbling over with enthusiasm about all things crafty. And Lego still sits in large bins in his room. There are times we still hear him, at age 18, sift-sift-sifting through the multitudinous plastic pieces, a new building plan coursing through his brain. He has plans this fall to do an apprenticeship with a contractor who runs an intentional spiritual community in Hawaii. For two months he will be meditating, doing yoga and learning to build houses. (Did I neglect to mention that one of his passions is meditation, something he’s been practicing for the past seven years?) We never know where each new creative pursuit will lead, but at least now I finally thoroughly accept that it doesn’t matter, because he’s living in his passion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Think Like a Team Captain

I’ve noticed lately that it all seems to go back to those days in junior high school. I sat with my p.e. class on the itchy, prickly grass of the softball field, watching the jocky girls, their muscly legs emerging from their blue and gold gym shorts, pacing back and forth deciding who to pick for their teams. I was invariably picked last or almost last. I was newer to the crowd and I wasn’t an athlete. I was just a small, shy girl picked last. The one nobody wanted on their team because she didn’t have what it took to win.

If I wasn’t the very last at least there was that feeling of Thank god I wasn’t last. They wanted me.

Well, sort of.

And if I was last? Not only did they not need me. I’d bring them down.

Which brings me to the crux of the issue: I didn’t even want to play. I hate sports.

But 7th grade girl still remains. I wrestle with her daily when I consider the many options in front of me. Now, the difference is that I am asked to consider this position, this volunteer job, this committee, this task and I have trouble deciding what I want to do. I have options. They want me! Not only that, they tell me I’d be perfect for this job.

They want me. They want me. They want me. How can I pick what I want when I have been picked by them? Maybe I should do it all? Say Yes and Yes and Yes to every single thing?

My life is full of children and animals and responsibilities. I have health issues. I have a son with health issues. I have a messy house and a messy car and I can’t even find my three to-do lists. If I only respond to that shy 12 year old I might not do exactly what this 50 year old needs to do most.

I turn it all over in my mind again and again. If they say I am the one, how can I not stand up and sit on their bench? My heart races when I think about letting people down. They need me. They need me. They need me. But, what do I need?

In the end I feel both selfish and anxious. Somehow choosing me first isn’t my habit. I’d say it comes with being a mother, but I wonder, what do those former team captains in their cute little gym shorts do? Did they grow up to just take on whatever came their way? Or did they look out for their best interest, just like they used to do in front of the back stop on the softball field?

I take a deep breath. It’s time to think like a team captain. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Brave hunter

This morning my cat, Dodger, was full of passion. I sat on the steps near the staircase landing, my toes hanging over the edge, and he rubbed against them m'yowww'ing at me. The more I scratched him the more he turned to give me tiny love bites. He was so full of sensuous catness. The roiling and rubbing and nipping at my toes and fingers.  Harry came out of the bathroom and that cat rushed to the corner of the railing and pushed his head through, a whoosh of passion rushing over him towards his boy. "Pet me! Rub me! I looooove you!" he seemed to say.

A little while later I found him here:

curled up on a sleeping bag on the floor of my bedroom (Toby had slept there the night before).

A little while after that I found a BIG dead mouse smack in the middle of the kitchen floor.


More like, proud brave kitty, home from the kill. (Although, I will admit the mouse seemed almost flattened on one side and quite dead...not sure if Dodger did it. But he was oh so proud all the same!)

There's nothing like battle to turn on the passions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

:: right now ::

Maurice was impressed with the size of the onions at our local farmer's market.
right now I am...

:: enjoying  getting to know our 15 year old foreign exchange student, Maurice, who is staying with us this month. He is a delight: bright, witty, enthusiastic, willing, and open. His English is excellent and he loves video games! What more could our family ask for?

:: basking  in the sweet afterglow of two teen boys returned from a week of meditating and getting real with themselves. The conversations we've had...aaaahhh...sweet!

:: watching  said boys turning into spectacular young men.

:: digging  into some serious creative sewing using the book Do-It-Yourself Clothing Design by Cal Patch. My first attempts last week (with A-line skirts) turned out beautifully and I can't wait to get started on the second project!

:: gathering  food to make our 3rd of July picnic. We have a glorious down-homey celebration here in town the night before the big day. We'll be showing Maurice the Big American Holiday, Sebastopol-style!

:: feeling  the gratitude for a bountiful life, a beautiful place to live in, and much, much love around me every day!

Monday, June 25, 2012

:: right now ::

Saying goodbye before the bus carried Toby off to Camp Tawonga.
right now I am...

 :: breathing  in the quiet of a house sans three boys as all have gone off to adventures in the woods

:: wondering  what each boy is up to at this very minute: meditating? eating? singing? hiking? playing? laughing?

:: worrying  (just a little bit) about the boy who is prone to home-sickness and hoping that his big brother will gently take him under his wing and brush away his sadness

:: feeling  the space open up in my life when my children are away and my list of responsibilities is more closely focused on just little ol' me

:: noticing  the gooseflesh on my arms and legs and appreciating (or trying to, anyways) that today won't be a scorcher and accepting that maybe I should get some jeans and a sweatshirt on

:: listening  to the soft snoring of one very tired man who went to bed before I did last night and has stayed in bed past when I awoke. Me thinks he has some catching up to do!

:: enjoying  the thought of three days off together with that very same tired man

:: thinking  about all I want to accomplish in the few days before two boys return from meditating and one (new) boy arrives from Germany

:: procrastinating  about getting started with the chores because that might mean I'm not relaxing anymore

:: considering  if there might be a new way to approach chores that could incorporate a more relaxed frame of mind...hmmmm...

:: hoping  to make time this week to exercise and cook and meditate and write and sew and organize and clean out and pretty up and build and plant AND knowing it can't all be done but wishing it could and (still) thinking maybe it can (Ha! take that pessimism!)

Hope your day and week is peaceful and fruitful!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Ben, chillin' at the Ritz. (Thanks Cousin Hana for this pic!)
Ben and Mark return tonight after a week away in Philly. I apologize for not updating on Ben's progress sooner...it's like a big inhale. Somehow I get caught up in the holding of the breath, and once I exhale, well, it's just gone.

It's also a lot like a rollercoaster.

Waiting waiting waiting. This line moves so slowly. Ahhh. Finally we're at the front. Climb in the car and please don't forget to strap yourself in. This may be a wild ride. What's that you feel? Scared? Excited? Huge anticipation of what's to come? Oh yes.

Ben's surgery on Wednesday went easily. He checked in at 6:30 a.m. and was discharged less than 12 hours later. Amazing! I talked to him, or I should say I texted him, as usual, on his way over to the hospital and then all the way until he was wheeled into the OR. He was even more calm then last time, which was pretty darn calm. Didn't seem to have butterflies at all. I went back to sleep (it was still dark outside where I was) and was awoken by a call...from BEN...about three hours later. He was just waking up from anesthesia and he was in excellent spirits. He even made a joke about some pink unicorns flying by, teasing me that he was high on pain meds. He texted me not long after to say, "I feel fantastic." And he most surely must have. That boy was up and out of there so fast.

Zoooop! Up to that first hill. Looking good, looking good.

Not long after the surgery Dr. C came by to talk to Mark and shared that Ben's spine had been very stiff and he hadn't been able to get much correction at all. We had been looking at this surgery as a dividing line. Since Ben's curve had progressed so much over the past two years (from 25 to 54 degrees) we knew that if Dr. C could not straighten Ben's spine out to the low 40's we would not be able to continue with lengthenings of the rod, but would have to turn to fusion. If there was little correction in this surgery then we were apparently done with lengthenings. And fusion is HUGE.

Zoooop! Down, down, waaaay down to the bottom. Ugh.

So, why didn't I share this with you? Why didn't I write about it? Well, I was pretty exhausted on Wednesday. I'd been up at 2:45 am to text Ben and then didn't really catch up. I was emotionally exhausted just from the anticipation. I was blue about fusion looming, closer now than ever before. But, I knew we needed to wait for Dr. C to take the post-op x-ray and tell us what he saw there. [The other reason is that as soon as Ben's surgery was over I had to go into full on final details mode for the Dan Nichols concert that was happening less than 5 days later. (It was really a bummer that Mark and Ben had to miss it!) I was working on little sleep, was single parenting, and the only time I spent on the computer was going over details for the concert. Sorry!]

Since Ben got sprung from the recovery floor so fast, Mark didn't talk to Dr. C again before they left. Dr. C was busy doing spine surgeries all day.

You might understand my surprise then when I saw this email from Dr. C's nurse the next morning: "Dr. C said after the lengthening Ben measured 38 degrees so he would like to plan for another one in 6 months."

Wha-what? That's a 16 degree correction and even with leeway for measurement error that's still about 10 degrees correction. Significant.

Zoooop! Up to the top and flying around the twists and turns! Oh my stomach!

I literally wondered if Dr. C was looking at the right x-ray. I've been puzzling over that for days and will talk with him early this week. I don't want to argue or seem skeptical, but it's hard to figure all of it out.

Anyways, the other good news is that beyond being released so fast from the hospital, Ben's had little pain this week and needed very little in the way of pain meds. The usual is Hydrocodone and Valium to help with muscle spasms that occur after being moved around so much in the surgery. This time he was done using the meds about two days post-op. That's unheard of!

It also doesn't line up with a huge correction, so I'm not sure what to think.

At this point I'm just taking my gratitude and curling up with it on the couch. Thankful my boy is feeling great. Thankful this surgery is behind us. Thankful he was well cared for by his daddy and the Ritz-Carlton. Thankful they're coming home tonight.

And, folks, as we pull into the station please remember to grab all your belongs, and loved ones, and please come back and ride this rollercoaster AGAIN.

Oh yeah. We'll be back.