Saturday, August 29, 2009

Aunt Jean

As many of you already know, my Aunt Jean was the victim of a horrible hit-and-run a mere block from her home in Brooklyn this past fall. She has been in and out of the hospital for the past 8 months due to numerous complications from this accident. Her assailant has still not been identified. (GRRR!)

Your prayers, good thoughts, chi or whatever you believe in are greatly needed and would be much appreciated right now, as she is once again back in the hospital, suffering seizures and diagnosed with toxic hepatitis.

The combination of all the drugs she has been given since the accident have caused serious damage to her liver. A biopsy will be performed on Monday in hopes that the doctors can figure out exactly what's causing the problems.

Thoughts and prayers of strength for my amazing Uncle Allan and cousins Chad & Matt would be appreciated as well.

I'll owe you all a backrub or something.

Thank you so much.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Max can work it

Our Boy never ceases to amaze me.

He was a champion flyer again yesterday! He slept through the brief first flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. We had a window seat and an empty seat between us and a very nice gentleman who also slept the whole flight. The second flight, however, we were on the aisle and from the get-go I could tell that the woman next to us was going to be a bit of a problem. She was obviously less than pleased to see that she was sitting next to a baby as soon as she boarded. Throughout the 2.5 hour flight to Minneapolis she got up not one, two or three times, but FOUR to use the restroom. (Though to be fair, I understand if she was having 'one of those days' and just really needed to use it often.) Max was pretty much wide awake for the flight, but would doze off on my shoulder every now and then, which is (oh so conveniently) when the lady would decide to ask for me to get up and let her out. (I was 'wearing' Max in his totally awesome Ergo Carrier) After the first two times I politely asked her if it'd be easier for me to move to the window seat in case she needed to get up again, but she said no, she was fine sitting in that seat. 'She' being the operative word! I was over it by the third potty break and when she asked for the fourth time I said "Really?". (The answer was 'yes', btw)

At one point I dozed off and when I woke I looked down and saw Max cooing, batting his long beautiful eyelashes and doing everything short of a song and dance number. I turned around to look behind us and he was apparently full-on flirting with a lady down the aisle! (I'm so sure my almost one year old can pick up chicks on a commercial airline!)

Anyhoo, we made it safely to Minneapolis and were greeted by my Dad, the infamous Stu Fu! My brother, his girlfriend and my niece & nephew arrived later in the afternoon and we've been having a grand ol' time since. I'm so thankful that we were able to get back to see him! We hadn't seen each other since Thanksgiving of '07, as we didn't get back for either of the holidays last year due to our new addition to the family.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Max is doing a great job with going to bed at night now. He was bathed, read, fed and in bed by 7:30pm last night. We all watched the Mall Cop movie (or rather, they watched and I fell asleep on the floor- apparently I *might* snore) and then I went up to bed a little before 11 or so. Max immediately woke up as soon as I opened the door and started crying. I thought he might be hungry, so I gave him a bit of a bottle until it was apparent that he just wanted to be up with me. As Michael will attest, this Boy has played me a lot when it comes to bedtime. He will do everything shy of reading poetry and confessing his love and adoration for me to convince me to let him stay up. (And yes, it may work most of the time- at least until I finally bought into the 'crying it out' method because yes, it does work and yes, I will fully admit that it FRICKIN' ROCKS to have the rest of the evening to myself!)

But I digress... so he doesn't want any more of the bottle and just wants to play at 11pm (or really midnight Eastern time). So I laid him back down in the crib and turned out the lamp. He cried. And cried some more... and I then witnessed his thought process when trying to get me to pick him up from his crib. I laid down on my bed and tried to stay as still as possible and watched in the shadows. First, he continued the dramatic crying while standing up in the crib. Then after a few minutes he'd stop and listen to see if I was buying into it. When it became apparent that I wasn't, he cried some more, even more dramatically. Repeat. Then he sat down in the crib... more crying... wait wait wait... cry some more. (Now while I'm sure this is probably something most parents have witnessed, I must note that it just tickled me to no end. During my pregnancy with Max I had many recurring dreams of waking up to see our child standing up in his crib. So yeah, pretty much a dream come true. And the fact that the child of two theatre professionals could cry sooo dramatically and with such feeling made it all the better!) After awhile I couldn't lie still anymore and either coughed or shifted on the bed accidentally, which set him off even more because he. knew. I. was. there! (And how DARE I not pick his adorable self up?!) I could tell he wasn't going to give up anytime soon, so I finally got up and moved to the spare bed in Stu Fu's office across the hall.

And he was out within 10 minutes. Sucker!

Think Momma will be sleeping in the office the rest of the week while we're here...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Next up: walking!

Max's physical therapist & Early Intervention (EI) caseworker just left. Little Dude rocked PT today! He was getting a little ornery before they arrived and I was worried he wouldn't 'perform', but he perked right up as soon as they walked in the door. (Hi, is someone destined for the stage?) For those of you unfamiliar with EI, every so often we update with a new (physical) goal for Max. The latest was for him to be able to sit up by himself and play with toys on the floor. He's had that down pat for quite awhile, so we updated today- his next goal is to WALK independently! The scary/exciting part is that he's probably not that far off. His therapist was amazed at the progress he'd made even since last week. We're now going to see her once every other week, as she feels he's on the right track!

It's hard to believe that Max will be ONE in just a little over two weeks. Lucky guy is going to have two birthday parties this year- one in Minnesota with my side of the family and one in Pittsburgh with Michael's! It blows my mind that at this time last year Michael was starting his first year of school and I was finishing up in the office in Pittsburgh and preparing to move and join him, then Max's very early arrival only three days after I moved. Needless to say, prepare yourselves for nostalgic posts in the coming days leading up to Max's birthday!

I'm happy to report that our 'Sleep Wars' have been lessening night by night. The bummer part for our boy is that bathtime is no longer fun, as he's starting to understand the routine: bath, book, bottle, bed. He now knows that a bath will inevitably lead to bed, so the joy of splashing is no more! Alas. Last night he was asleep in less than 15 minutes! V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

The job hunt continues, though I do know that my agencies have sent out my resume to a couple specific jobs, so we'll see. The amusing part/kicker of my layoff is that now that Max is on a regular sleeping schedule, I'd have been able to work uninterrupted all evening. Again, alas...

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet an internet friend for the very first time 'in real life'. It was so fun finally talk in person and we (Max & I) had an awesome time. (Thanks, K!) On a funny random note, it turns out that K's office is not even a mile from my old office, which means that the couple weeks I trained in the office earlier this spring, we were literally right up the road from each other. Crazy!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

God Bless the USA!

My brother Eric is officially back on U.S. soil for his two week service leave from Iraq! He arrived in Atlanta shortly after midnight this morning and then flew to Minneapolis where he was reunited with our dad and his girlfriend! Max and I will be flying to Minnesota on Sunday for the week to see him. (Max & Eric have not met yet!) I'm so proud of him (as well as his fellow Army servicemen & women), but I'm thrilled he's HOME!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Is it *really* possible to be upset with this guy when he smiles at you like this after you find him wading in the dog's water dish? Methinks not.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thought provoking stuff....

I happened to read a blog posted by an acquaintance of Angie's regarding the health care issue. I thought it, and the the comments it elicited, exemplified the under-current of frustration that's currently in our country. It got me thinking about the subject, something I have not done, either because I've been too busy, or because I know that dissembling the facts from the massive amounts of printed opinions, reports, projections and whatnot would be a herculean task that, frankly, I don't have the time to which to devote. But, as it was a though provoking dialogue (and it was a dialogue...there was plenty of back and forth) I've been "sucked in" as it were, and now I have to air out some thoughts in the hope that I can come to a conclusion.

Let me say that I don't really trust the written word very much, and I trust the spoken word even less. (Sorry to the reporters, journalists, and other members of the media). It's not that I doubt the media's inability to gather and report facts, I just feel that often times, I'm not getting the whole story. Sometimes its because there are underlying motives (such as with Fox News or MSNBC) or its because the amount of facts related to any given subject are so great and vast that it would be impossible for anyone to report it in it's totality, and again, who has the time to read, comprehend, and process vast amounts of information. This speaks to the larger problem at hand. I could, if I wanted to, set upon a fact finding mission of my own, obtain and pour over the facts and figures of the current problem and come to my own conclusion. Problem is, I would finish the project about 17 years after I was dead, provided I lived to be about 85 years old. This speaks to a couple of problems that I think are far greater in this country than the current health care issue. First, I feel that in this country no one wants to accept their civic responsibility. Case in point: when was the last time you met someone who looked forward to jury duty? Do we thoroughly research candidates that are running for office, or do we just tick of the party box in when we're in the polls? When was the last time you researched a legislative topic solely for the purpose of understanding the issue, a la, look at the website of the Senate of House of Representatives and actually read the bill that's up for discussion? We're content as a country to let other people do our thinking for us, either because we're complacent, or we're too busy making a living and trying to catch the "American Dream" (which, frankly, I don't think exists, if it ever did. The house, white picket fence, and 2.5 kids was nice, in print, but as sociologists like Betty Freidan found out, it was all a facade and hid larger, more complex problems). I'll hear about a bill that's about to be voted on, and then I'll hear that it's 1,200 pages long, and that there is no way anyone could have read it prior to the vote. If I did that at work, say, design a show before I read the script, or built the set before I had drawings, I'd be out of work I'd set a new land speed record on my way out the door. Why is that acceptable for our elected officials? What's the rush? I would be perfectly happy with a vote being delayed for the purposed that everyone read and understood what they were voting on. Sure, I understand that the fast paced nature and obligations of our elected officials makes it difficult, nay, impossible to read every piece of legislation. But isn't that a problem that needs addressing?

That being said, I freely admit that I do the same thing. I don't participate in the running of my country, which I love. I neglect it and ignore it, and let other people tend to it for me. So many people over the last 233 years have laid down their lives so that I might have the opportunity to do just the very thing that I neglect. I am shamed by my own inactivity.

I believe our health care system does need fixed. Why do I have to choose between giving my son a drug that will keep him healthy and bankrupt me (even though I have insurance, but they won't pay for it, despite the doctors telling me my son needs it), and letting my son die? I have a tough time believing the "the quality of my care will decrease if the government runs my health care" argument because I get bills from my insurance company saying that they won't pay for a procedure because it was "over and above what they deemed necessary treatment". Seriously, I have EOB's that say that. Where was the insurance agent when Max was lying on the table, blue and on ventilation? I'm sorry, but that's wrong. I don't believe transferring responsibility to the government is the right answer, but I do believe that there are things that need to be changed in our private sector health insurance companies. If I weren't in school and was able to buy into a group policy, neither Max or I would be able to get health insurance Me, for my cancer, despite that testicular cancer has a 99% survival rate, and Max, because he'll cost too much based on past history.

I get the distinct feeling that it's all about the bottom line with the insurance companies. How about a non-for-profit insurance company? Or a non-for-profit drug company? I read some people would rather have a charity come to their aid during natural disasters than FEMA. In fact, some people said that's how it should be. That's fine, assuming there is a large charitable undercurrent in American, and to some degree, there is. But there's also a large "if it ain't in my backyard, I'm not dealing with it" attitude. And there are a lot of people out there that are happy to help, for a price. Like drug companies. I haven't heard of a drug company going broke in a long time. I'm happy to pay the money for a drug if the money is going to research, but given the profits these companies are making, I'm not so sure it is. Where's the charitable sentiment there?

Likewise, I'm happy to buy my own insurance. But please, don't make decisions on my care based on an actuary's formula or a bottom line. If that's what you're going to do, then let's save ourselves the aggravation and put a bullet in my brain. It's quicker and less painful.

Argh, this is complicated. Right now, I want to throw my hands up and let it all go. Dump it in someone else's lap. And that's the problem. As a country, we've done some pretty amazing things all through our history. But lately, no one wants to put their nose to the grindstone and get stuff done. Look at facts and researching can be just as difficult as putting a man on the moon or defeating the British army. Twice. Its just not as glorious in the end to study and make an informed decision.

I voted for Mr. Obama because I thought he was a thoughtful man who would look at the facts and make an informed decision. With the health care issue, though, I think he's trying to slam something through that's not ready yet. I'm deeply disappointed with his leadership on this issue. Hopefully, that will change, but I don't see that happening.

These are merely the early stages of my independent thought process on the subject. Obviously, I need more fact, and I need to get them myself. Feel free to add your two cents, but with the understanding that two cents buys very little anymore.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oy, it's so Hayumid...

I love my home commonwealth of Pennsyltucky, but damn, summers around here can get pretty "close" as my grandmother would say. I've been working on my London Experience paper outside on the porch at my mother's house. We've been staying here and watching over the estate while she's recovering from knee replacement surgery. She's doing well and is highly motivated to recover quickly because a) she's having the other knee done in 6 1/2 weeks and b) she's bound and determined to walk before her grandson. I think by Christmas they'll both be tearing it up.

Max had his therapy appointment yesterday. Again, the universe putting stuff in perspective. When he was discharged from the hospital ten months ago, we were told he would be caught up with his actual age by the age of 24 months. After what the therapist saw yesterday, it is looking like he'll be caught up by 15 months, if not sooner. He's an amazing little boy, and begs a visit to the question of nature vs. nurture. This kid was born tough and bright, which is great, because he's had to be. He's curious and stubborn, likes to test the boundaries and push the limits. He knows when he's doing something he shouldn't, like grab at the wires on a lamp or some other electrical device. He'll look back at you as if to say "yeah? What are you gonna do about it?" The answer is a quick little slap on the hand which he shrugs off. My point is that he is responsible for his survival and for his flourishing more than Angie and I are. He's just amazing.

It was fortuitous that the therapist showed up around nap time. She got to see Max in all his "I'm not going to bed, damn it, I don't care how tired I am" glory. She asked us some questions and we asked her a ton. The conclusion that was arrived at is that our preemie is a "stong-willed child". No kidding. I'll admit, though, it was nice to hear someone with greater experience in these matters than we to recognize the same thing we've been seeing for a few months now. The boy is stubborn. Nothing we can do about that. She reassured us we're doing the right thing with letting him cry it out at night, and said we were smart to be doing this now. If we had waited too much longer, it would have been a lot nastier. We've been reading how it would take "three or four days" before a child would get used to being put to bed and crying it out before they got the hint. For a week now, we've had the routine: bath, bottle, book, bed. Nothing. Screams for an hour, although lately we've had some nights and naps when he went down after a backrub. The therapist said it might take upwards of two weeks, if not longer. That was good to hear. I don't feel as though we're missing something, or doing something wrong. It's just him, our stubborn little boy.

We also found out this week something we had already known. Max is small. No, really! He's not going to be the "tub of lard" baby that his dad or his uncles were. He's a little guy. Well proportioned, except for the enormous head, but that's where the brain is, so no complaints there. I just hope he uses it when he's a teenager.... But seriously, again, it was good to hear that he's just small, and that yes, we're feeding him the right stuff. His weight matches his height, so everything is okay. We've been feeding him a lot of organic food (all organic, really) and not a lot of meat, although we've been giving that to him a lot more recently. I remember hearing a report once that the reason kids are so big in this country is partly due to the growth hormones they put in the feed animals. I'm not sure I believe all that, but why risk it? He's had enough medical issues to last him for a while. Small or large, he's my little buck.

We've begun this little game between the two of us. He'll look at me, and I'll look at him, and we'll gently butt heads and then giggle. This will go on for several minutes. I like being the rough-and-tumble dad. It's one of the things I miss most about my dad. We would fight and wrestle and of course he always won, though towards the end of his life, we were getting pretty comparable in skills. He had strength, but I had speed and agility (ha! wonder what happened to THAT?). Now with, and the way he thinks, I wonder how he'll beat me. I'm sure it will happen, but probably not for a long, long time. Like Sunday. Or maybe next Wednesday.

One the computer front, the service man showed up today with the correct part. Got it to begin the booting up process and the minute he walked out the door, nothing. Turned off. So now, I'll be getting a box from Sony and I'll be shipping it to CA for repairs or replacement. Took the hard drive to Staples where the nicest computer tech I've ever met retrieved all my documents and pictures. Seriously, this guy acted...socialized. And friendly to boot. Anyway, I can continue work on my paper now, and not have to worry about when/if I'll get my info off my computer to finish. There's a reason I like doing arcane carpentry (sans the power tools, a hobby of mine). Sure it's slower, but you know what to expect. No surprises for the most part. Like when I take my hammer to the keyboard of my paperweight/laptop, I know pretty much what's going to happen. Sweet, sweet retribution.

Well, that's about it. 12 hours of on and off (mostly on) paper writing. Daddy's down for the day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sony, Do you Read the Internet at ALL?

The repairman came out to fix my computer today. Good news: he doesn't have to do anything with the hard drive, so all my info/projects/etc are safe. Bad news: Sony doesn't realize, like the rest of the world, that their computers have a design flaw on the power switch that causes the problem just like the one I'm having. It's posted all over the internet with the proper course of action: replace the power "tube". However, when the repairman arrived, he had what Sony sent him based on what they thought it would take to repair the problem, a new motherboard and new memory modules. A new power tube was not part of the package. He knew what the problem was, I knew what the problem was, I'm pretty sure our dog knew what the problem was. Sony didn't.

So he had to call Sony back to tell them to send a new power tube. It will be here later this week.

Get on the ball, Sony. I like your stuff, but if you keep this up, I'll be getting a Dell or a Mac next time.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Universe is Toying with Me

Perhaps I've made it known, or perhaps I haven't, but I'm a Unitarian Universalist. While it grew out of a Christian tradition 600 years ago, today, it bears almost no resemblance to the modern Christian church. It has no creed, just 7 guiding principles, all of which I held in my heart before I joined the church. There is unifying belief among its members. Some identify themselves as Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddist, agnostict, atheist, and "other". I guess I would fall under the "other" category. My beliefs are atypical, but they are mine, and they spring from my heart, my soul, and my experiences. I will never force them on someone, nor expect anyone else to believe in them as I do. Explaining what the Unitarian Universalist church is to anyone who is unfamiliar with it is difficult to do in a blog post, and it's not something I'm going to try to attempt today, but maybe down the road, if anyone is curious, or I have a burning desire to voice my soul to the ether, I'll make an attempt. In the meantime, I would check out this website if you're curious.

Anyway, the past week has been a test for me to follow my spirit and trust in the universe. Angie's job going buh-bye is stressful, yes, but not as stressful as I thought it would be. Everything will come out in the wash. We have a great and loving family around us, and with their help, we'll weather the storm of unemployment like so many other people are doing. That being said, there is a rather large undercurrent of stress in the atmosphere around our house, but nothing beyond what one would expect in this situation. The trick is to look at what we have and be grateful for it. Patience is NOT abundant in the Benson household, and it's something that all three of us need to learn.

We've also been working with Max on getting to sleep on his own, which is a bit nerve wracking. He is the child I deserve, for good and for not-so-good. He's as stubborn as his old man (whose own mother, I might add, referred to him as a "stubborn Swede" from a VERY early age), and that is a bane and a boon. It served him well when he was in the NICU, and his feistyness, which EVERYONE could see at a young age, has saved his life, and driven Angie and I mad on occasions. Take the good with the bad. There was a point when we wanted to hear him cry, because he couldn't, and now, he's making up for lost time. When he hits the 45 minute, 1 hour, 1 1/2 hour mark of crying when he's put to bed, I try to remember that. He was the tube/Borg baby. Now he's a bullheaded Swede, just like his dad, full of piss and vinegar. That's my little preemie Max, making all that racket. Whatever happened to that baby who was going to die the day after he was born? You hear that air-raid siren?...yeah, that's him. So his lungs are fine? Uh, yeah...just fine. Super, in fact. It makes me cry. For joy or frustration, I'm not sure which. A little bit of both.

But the universe has a funny way of working. When one removes the value system one tends to impose upon it, things really do seem to happen for a reason. And everything balances. Today, I was informed that a bid on a small construction project I had submitted was approved, and I'll be making a little money off of that, which will help. That helps balance off the loss of the job this month, and will carry us into next when my student loans hit. Likewise, my computer tanked last night. It's under warranty, but I have several projects that I'm working on that need to be finished by August 20 that I can no longer access. I have been at my mother's taking care of her house while she recovers from knee replacement surgery, so I haven't had a chance to back up my work. Anyway, as I was frantically trying to find a place that could extract my data from my hardrive, one of the technicians who was familiar with my computer and the particular problem these units have, assured me that my data would be safe, and if the technician who will come to fix it this week needs to touch the hard drive, I'll be able to back up the data. As anyone who has had this problem knows, that's fantastic news! I don't need to spend the money unnecessarily, and I'll have my work in time to finish the project.

Perhaps the greatest evidence that the universe is working for us is my notification that I have been approved to submit an application for a grant. This grant, funded by the SAMFund, is specifically for young cancer survivors who are in school and who need monetary help. While moving forward to the next step is no guarantee that I'll receive any funding, it does mean I'm still in the running, one of about 200 people and last year they handed out 78 grants. I just squeaked under the age requirement (I was 35 when I had my cancer last year, the maximum age for applicants), and the grants are to be used to offset the cost of treatment, including fertility treatment, which I received and need to receive due to the chemo, but is not covered by my insurance. The funds can also be used for rent, computers, anything related to school and living with cancer. I had half-heartedly submitted my Letter of Intent last May, forgetting about it as soon as I sent it. I was heartened to receive my notification that I was approved to submit a formal application! Who knows, maybe nothing will come of it, but maybe it will. (They also take donations, so if you'd like, check out the website. There are some great stories of past recipients.)

So those are my musings for today. Just letting the universe take me for a ride, and I'm smelling the roses with the fertilizer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Music on the (You)Tube

In the fall of '01, my friend/collaborator Bobby and I were given the honor of creating a brand new musical version of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol at a theatre in Vermont. (Coincidentially, the same one where Michael & I met!) It has since been performed on tour and in the Boston & D.C. areas. Last week, two of the songs I composed were performed in a concert of Bobby's works in NYC. (Lyrics & new arrangement by him) Thanks to the glories of the internet, here's a YouTube video of that evening!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Silver Lining

As we already know all too well, life is full of unexpected surprises- some good, some bad. This past Friday about an hour before Max & I boarded our plane home I learned that due to corporate cutbacks my position was being eliminated at the end of the day.

Yup. Got the ol' pink slip on the last day of the month and convenient end of the pay period.

Thankfully, my dad was flying out west on a flight two hours after ours, so he had been able to go through security with us and we'd been having lunch at the cafe court when I received the message. He immediately took over Max Duty (thanks, Dad!) and I was able to sneak away to a 'Quiet Area' upstairs to return HR's phone call.

I won't go into the mundane details, as I'm sure everyone knows how this kind of phone calls goes. It was typical, but shocking nonetheless. I feel silly because I thought I was 'safe'. I dropped consistent numbers for my team and still lost my job. Ahhh, life in the corporate world...

It turned out that Michael was online in London as I was learning of my heave-ho and was fantastically calm and supportive through cyberspace. I am so fortunate to have such a level-headed husband because I was A MESS. A typing, Google-chatting MESS.

We're doing our best to see the silver lining in this situation though. I mean, look at the picture at the top of this post- how can I *not* be thrilled to spend true quality Mommy time with that little man?! It's already such a relief to have a break from the constant cloud of "Am I going to get my work done?!" looming over my head. Because I worked from home, it was often (okay, most of the time) impossible to leave work at work. Not to mention that I worked half of my shift in the middle of the night in order to have 100% 'quiet time' while the house slept, which wasn't even always the case. (Hi, teething 11 month old.)

I truly believe this change in situation will benefit my family. I can be a better me for them. (P.S. Thanks to my husband for putting up with me during the 'bitchy spells'.)

I'm also considering going back to school. This would be a huge step for me, so I don't want to say too much at this point. I'll keep you posted.

So even though it's a big suck to get laid off at this point in time, we'll get through it. As one of Michael's classmates reminded him the other day- if we could get through this past fall, we can get through *anything*.

Thanks, Amalia!

Sunday, August 2, 2009