Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Weeks

Will things ever be normal? I've heard the phrase "new normal" about a zillion times the past few weeks, and I guess that is where we are headed. We're back to doing the normal things -- school and wrestling for Will, work for Clay and even I went back to school today. We're cooking supper, watching TV, making cookies with the boys and taking them to the movies. I even knit a little yesterday.
But there are hundreds of thank you notes in various piles of completion on our dining room table. Droopy flowers from beautiful bouquets on top of my compost heap. Five boxes of saltines in the pantry and four bags of cheese in the frig (I think everyone who brought a pot of soup brought a box of crackers and a bag of cheese to go with it). Beautiful live plants in the foyer, angels, stepping stones, picture frames and prayer blankets all around the house that weren't there three weeks ago. Not normal.
And is it normal for a 16-year old high school junior to keep a brown and white striped onesie in his pocket all the time?
Will, like all of us, has an Allie-shaped hole in his heart.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Allie's Eulogy

I just can't write much lately, except in a little journal I started last week and will probably have to burn later since it is full of the f-word. But I thought I would share a nice piece of writing -- Clay's eulogy from Alex's funeral.
October 9, 2009
Alexander Clayton Anderson, Alex, our little Allie, was THE happiest baby I have ever known… and I’ve known a lot of happy babies. And I will love him and miss him every day for the rest of my life. His smile would light up a room, and I will always cherish the smiles that greeted me when he came through the front door to visit, when he was here when I came home from work, and when I saw him in the morning when the kids spent the night at our house. I will hold the memories of our trip to the Cleveland zoo last summer, and our trip to the wildlife refuge to see the ducks last week in my heart forever.
We loved, and worried, about Alex even before he was born. One day Sarah, 8-1/2 months pregnant, went to work and forgot her cell phone, which just happened to be the day of the flood in Columbus. Cut off from getting home, unable to call Adam or us to let us know she was okay, were some of the most stressful hours of my life, but they were ok... no big deal even… Alex would be born in Greenwood, at St. Francis Hospital. Then we learned that he might have a hearing problem, even be deaf in 1 ear, but over the months THAT seemed to go away too. This summer there was a concern he might have a digestive disorder, his stomach would get so hard and full when he would eat, but it turned out, he just liked to eat… a lot. But through it all, he kept smiling and laughing.
His appetite was truly amazing. It was only in the last month he would seem to get full, before that we had to stop feeding him. Just last Friday Sarah brought us home a tenderloin sandwich from the Oktoberfest as we watched the kids and he proceeded to eat ½ of George’s sandwich and then some applesauce. We wondered if there was anything he wouldn’t eat and I finally found 1 thing at Tommy’s birthday party last month, green olives, and that is another memory I will hold dear. He didn’t like it, in fact he even threw it at me, but he didn’t stop smiling, and he didn’t stop eating. He immediately opened his mouth for more pasta salad with a wary eye looking for more green olives, because you know, I tried to give him more.
It is entirely appropriate that today is cloudy and rainy, because today our hearts are breaking. Everyone’s prayers and good wishes have meant more than you could ever know and I don’t know how we will ever be able to repay everyone’s kindness during this week. But it is also entirely appropriate that tomorrow, and this weekend, will be beautiful and sunny, because that’s what Alex was. We owe it to him, and to Tommy and Nate, and Sarah and Adam, to be happy again, because that’s what Alex would be… that’s what Alex is. We will be happy again, I promise you that, and I look forward to the days and years ahead with Tommy and Nate, playing with them and helping them, and keeping Alex alive and happy in their memories. It helps a great deal to know that heaven is a little happier today with Alex, our little Allie, there.
Thank you…

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Prayers

Yesterday, I sat through one of the most beautiful funeral masses ever. Five caring priests on the altar. My dear friends playing and singing.

But I didn't pray. And I couldn't sing.

I tried again last night without success. And this morning, I still have that empty feeling, like I will never pray, sing or be truly happy ever again. Clay tells me I will. And I believe him, I think.

But I thought I should start on my thankfulness list, for when God and I are on speaking terms again:

Angie's handmade rosaries, a gift from my biggest fan.

Holly and Justin's talents.


Jim Gerth's words of comfort. One of the things I wanted most this week was my mom and dad. Jim filled that achy void a little for me.


Kindergartener's hugs. Man, did I miss them this week. I think they were all supposed to be silently going back to the classroom when I saw them, and I hope they didn't get into trouble for jumping out of line.

The Coons Women and their compatriot, Will.

Mr. Prout, who told me I would never withstand the competition at music school at IU, which convinced me to go to Purdue. Perhaps if I had gone to IU, I would have met a man like Clay and friends like the Crew, but I doubt it.

Friends who surprise you by their actions. People you didn't realize were your friends.



Friday, October 2, 2009

October -- You know what that means

So, it's October. We are in the middle of the Great Festival in our town, in which we spell October with a "k".

But more importantly, it's breast cancer awareness month. And, in honor of that (and my mother), I was busily planning another giveaway.

Then I read this. It seems that while I was buying every pink thing at the grocery, walking in the Race for the Cure and writing checks to Komen, I've been unintentionally ticking off a lot of people. Like this popular blogger, Jeanne, the Assertive Cancer Patient. (If you scroll down on her current page, there's my beloved pink mixer. Ouch.)

And then there is the book, Pink Ribbons, Inc., by Samantha King which explains the big business of corporate philanthropy -- is slapping a pink ribbon on your product altruistic or simply capitalistic?


I am such a freaking Pollyanna that I swear, I have never once considered that corporations like New Balance, Mars, Campbell's and BMW would use the pink ribbon to garner my sympathy dollars, and those of millions of women like me who see the ribbon and think, "Oh, aren't they sweet?"

As Jeanne says, "it's all about selling the soup."

The Breast Cancer Action group has a campaign called "Think Before You Pink." Pretty good advice that I needed to hear. So, I am paying closer attention to those products graced with the pink ribbon. I am researching what percentage of the profits from those items go to research and awareness. But I have to buy toilet paper anyway, so why shouldn't I buy Quilted Northern? Their company has given over $500,000 to Komen. Through Cook for the Cure, KitchenAid has given over $7 million. Try as I may, I just can't feel bad about that.

As a side note, there is the Yoplait problem. It is hard to believe, but until this August, Yoplait (with their little pink lids I have been washing and saving for years) was using milk from cows treated with artificial bovine growth hormone (rBGH) which has been connected to several different cancers and is banned in most countries. The Breast Cancer Action group took Yoplait (a General Mills company) to task through grassroots efforts of letter writing and e-mailing, convincing them that using rBGH milk for their yogurt and pumping it into little pink packages was hypocrisy. Many thanks to the BCA.

Then, rBGH leads to the Eli Lilly problem. Lilly is the only manufacturer of rBGH; sales of the synthetic hormone were $985 million last year. But they also manufacture cancer and cancer-preventative drugs (to the tune of $2.5 billion last year). The BCA calls this "Pinkwashing." I call it "crazy s**t that makes my head almost explode", especially when I consider that Lilly employs over 13,000 in Indiana, donates generously to the arts and community improvement, and has provided 4-year, full-ride scholarships to kids we love.

Crap. I just wanted to give away a few little pink things.

So yes, you know what I did. Even though I am late to the party, I joined the BCA and sent them a donation. And, I am going to keep my eyes and heart open and be more careful with my pink ribbon dollars.

But I'm not going to stop wearing the pink ribbon, and I hope women like Jeanne can forgive me. If I were to meet her, or any woman for whom the pink ribbon has become a marketing symbol instead of a sign of hope and for whom October is a month of pink dread, I would take it off. But for me, the pink ribbon is a reminder -- a reminder of my mother, my grandmother, and all the women I know who have battled breast cancer. It's a reminder to me to do my self-exam, get a mammogram every year and stay current on the research and advances. It's a reminder to remind my friends to do the same. It's a reminder that although great things have been accomplished, breast cancer is still a killer.

And I like pink. Jeanne says it is the color of "girly, sexist expectations". To me, it's the color of newborn piglets, ripening strawberries and baby feet. Sunrise skies out the back window, Our Lady of Guadalupe roses out the front. The color of the sweetness of life.

So, am I giving something away? Probably. But all this pink thinking has zapped my creative crafty energy. Stay tuned.