Thursday, April 30, 2009

Joe Biden says...


Way to help stabilize the economy, dude. Nice.

Overheard last night on TV

Most presidents only have 2 or 3 problems to deal with--I have 8.
Politics in Washington are hard.
Everybody's all partisan.
My peepee hurts.

Suck it up, dude. You rode the cult of personality into office, promised moonbeams and kitty whiskers. Don't go whining about how hard it is.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm Gonna Want To Act Soon!

  1. WTF?
  2. How do you put a null record in your database?
  3. How do you assign a price value to a null record?
  4. How do you assign a discount to that bizarro record?
  5. Fifth, and finally, after missing all of that, how do you then blanket your customers with an ad for your null record (complete with null image!)?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter

So here's what I think should happen. I think any elected official should be allowed to change parties in office, but then be immediately barred from participating in the political process until a special election can be held to determine if the populace continues to support the new platform.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Well, that was unexpected

Today was the best! Or to borrow from Chad: Best. Day. Ever.

Whodathunk? It was expected to be melancholy, being exactly one month since Amanda died, but somehow I think we actually lived up to her very best expectations.

The day started with Mr. Grumpystripes not wanting to eat breakfast--pretty typical. But then we went outside and he helped me wash the MINI and the Miata. He'd break for periodic interludes of playing...his new guitar!

I went to Target yesterday after spying on him with the nanny-cam (where he was rocking some serious air guitar) and got a "fancy" $20 guitar that plays 5 pop songs when he strums and pushes the buttons. It's freakin' awesome. And since I know the words to the songs it plays, he pretends we're a band.

So that consumed about 2 hours of our morning, after which we had our free trial class at The Little Gym. Again: totally k-rad. The play is semi-structured, with kids somewhat free to run around and act berzerk during warm-up, and then being shuffled very freely between different activity areas in a big padded room. Moms & dads are invited to watch, but not to participate. And that is the very best part. It doesn't matter if he's being disruptive: not my problem.

So yeah, we signed up for the class.

And then, after nap, we went and rocked out at his friend Kaden's house for way longer than the 30 minutes we'd planned. I think we left there just shy of the 2-hour mark, and beat a hasty path to "Grammy & Pappy's" house, where he's spending the night.

Kid had a great day, and was well worn out when I dropped him off. And when Alastair has a great day, it just warms the soul. Can't be sad with a kid that happy.

I miss you, Amanda.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Face Hurts

Yesterday I decided to take advantage of Richmond's perfect 72-degree weather to finish up with the MINI. All it needed was to have the stock exhaust and wheels remounted. That's it. Nothing more (at least for now).

So Alastair and I went outside, and he blew some bubbles and tried to cause general mayhem while I set about remounting the exhaust. I got the 6-bolt plate in place, used it to get the stock straps mounted, and then went for the to big flange bolts.

There's really no good access for the flange bolts. Even the thinnest socket wrench is just a hair too thick, which means you can't really get the socket-well to mate properly to the nut. Which means the wrench will, at some point, almost certainly fly free.

And with less than 1/4 turn left until it was good & tight, that's just what happened. I caught that 18" long 1/2" breaker bar right on my forehead a full-crank. It didn't feel good. I screamed. Like for real, and I am not a screamer. I laid my arm over my face and tried to come to an understanding with the pain, but no dice. I rolled out from under the car, took Alastair inside, and washed my hands (this is actually very clear thinking--who knows how much dirt & grease was on my hands from the bottom of the car). Then we went upstairs to assess the damage.

I had a nice deep 1.5cm laceration about 3/4" over my right eye. I hit my face hard enough that it didn't bleed much. Which made me worried about a concussion. But I did the whole peroxide & neosporin & band-aid thing, and we sat down to eat. And then I started randomly crying and shaking. I think I was afraid of going to the hospital and getting admitted overnight for observation, getting stitches, and failing CT-scan (ya know, since Amanda did technically die of a brain bleed).

So I called my stepmother in tears and asked her to come over. When she arrived, I beat a hasty path to Patient First, where they got me processed, seen and treated within 20 minutes. Apparently when you come in with a big hole in your face, they think that's important.

No stitches, but now I have to take creative showers for a couple of days to keep my steri-strips dry.

So that's that. I had to leave the car up in the air with no front wheels and 6 loose bolts--but not for long. I couldn't calm down enough to sleep last night, so I went back outside at about 12:15am, tightened those bolts, hung the front wheels, and put the car on the ground. Drove it to work today, too. It's awesome! Doesn't feel at all like an 82K mile car (probably because all the stock suspension components only have about 25K miles on them).

Oh yeah, and right before Alastair went to bed last night, he crapped all over himself, his bed, and his towel. Rather than telling us (me and Randy), he asked to hide under his towel, effectively pulling his own feces over his face. Niiiiiiice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anybody want a MINI?

2004 Cooper, Chili Red w/ White roof. Sunroof. 82000 miles young.

I'll throw in a bunch of extras, like suspension upgrades, a sport shifter, intake, and even a fancy set of wheels.

Needs electrical work (right-side brake light doesn't work, and it's NOT the bulb), a new accessory belt, and a loving home.

$10,500. $11,000 if you want all the extras (including a new steering wheel--the current one's a bit worn).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Doin' Manda Proud

We used to play a game in the Amos house. It was never really codified, and the scoring system never worked out, but we use to watch TV, movies, whatever other media and try to recognize the background actors from their other gigs. Sometimes new shows would actually star the background or supporting actors from prior shows, and it was always entertaining to hear Amanda just rattle off entire film careers.

A few years ago, I started to get pretty good at the game, and Amanda was always impressed at my ability to recognize 80's TV "stars" in their modern roles.

So last night, I'm getting ready to turn off the TV when I catch all of 5 minutes of Southland. I instantly recognized the girl from "227"*, the dude from "That Thing You Do", and Bull from "Band of Brothers". Yay for me!

*This is not the first time I'd recognized Regina King. The first time (in "Ray") 'bout knocked Amanda's socks off, principally because I confessed to being a regular watcher "227".

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Student Loans

I can't get behind the notion that the student loan process needs to be reformed. Essentially, the way it breaks down is this: kid DECIDES to go to school, borrows money from lender, goes to school, gets out, repays money over a long term. Reads kind of like a home loan, car loan, or any other kind of loan. Credit card debt plays out similarly: you decide you want something you can't afford, and you simply defer payment.

How, then, does the process need to be "reformed"? How is it perceived that these kids are being screwed? Nobody put a gun to their heads and compelled them to borrow money. Why should I be expected to pony up for some other jackass's education that he couldn't afford in the first place? Maybe I should buy a Ferrari and go whining to the government that I can't make the payments.

But therein lies the principal difference between loans for items and loans for services: items can be seized, returned, or sold to recoup portions of the investment. The loan can be repaid or absolved by default.

An education cannot be returned. But there's still no arguing that it was a choice.

Perhaps what is needed is not reform within the lending industry, but reform in financial education in the primary schools. I don't know about you, but once I got out of middle school, all my math classes focused on every element of mathematics EXCEPT economics. I did trig, geometry, and calculus. No economics there.

I suppose I got lucky in that my family had been saving for years in the hopes of sending me to college. I am doing the same for my son. But if he decides to go to Brown, Princeton, or Yale, and I can't afford that crap, he's going to get a big discourse in the far-reaching implications of accepting money from lending institutions.

The other element of this that I just don't get is why everyone feels like college is mandatory. It isn't. I read a series of articles about 6 months ago that cast the decision to go to college in something of a different light. Prior to Gen X, some people went to college and others took up trades. Those who took up trades were not necessarily any worse off than those who went through 4 years of college, and many of them became quite wealthy. At the very least, they had 4 more years to spend toward mastering their chosen trade.

But somewhere along the line this new notion developed that going to college was the only way to achieve anything in life. It's a strange notion, because most of the highly-skilled people I've met in IT over the years didn't go to college, and most made far more than I ever have. But this insistence on going to college created two serious problems within our culture:
  1. Fewer people were willing to take up trades, believing their educations made them better than their parents (which, in turn, partially explains the immigrant influx to take jobs that Americans just won't do).
  2. Significantly increased depression in American teens. The stress of going through the application process, and the horror of rejection, have been tied to depression and suicide rates. One girl from my high school blew her brains out after getting caught cheating on a test. It was only a week from graduation, and she feared she'd lose her scholarship.
Supposedly college applications are down this year. Some see that as bad, but I think maybe, just maybe, it reflects a return to sound decision-making within the American family. Instead of just getting whooped up about racing off to college, families are trying to come up with financially feasible plans. Yippee!

But if the Feds step in and "reform" the industry, they're just shifting the burden of fiscal responsibility off the starry-eyed 17 year-olds and putting it onto us. Direct lending from the US Gov't? That's nuts. From whom will the US Gov't be borrowing that money? And at what rate? Didn't Obama promise to reduce the deficit?

I'm sorry, but I just don't have any pity for this tripe. If you borrow money, pay it back.

When I'm king, we will revisit this issue when we open the debtors prisons.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Best. Toddler. Night. EVER.

I got home yesterday to a little boy in a great mood. Always the right way to start the evening. He went downstairs and played with me for a while before letting me vacuum almost the entire house.

Then we had absolutely no objections to our dinner, which comprised hot dogs, baked beans, applesauce, and carrots. He ate his whole dinner in about 15 minutes, and then we danced and wrestled and played with his Cars toys for almost a full hour, rocked out to Journey, and had no problems getting to bath and bed.

Who is this child? All praise routine and TV-detox!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I know how the Welsh feel

I suppose I've had a bit of time now to sort of digest how my life is changing. I'm sure I'll learn more and more over the next several months & years, but some observations are in order:

1. I am the sole speaker of a dead language. Date someone long enough, and you begin to develop a private language, rich with metaphors that pertain to specific incidents in your life together. It's tremendously useful for escaping bad parties, talking trash about people right in front of them, and keeps things entertaining. Amanda and I had 15 years to develop our private language, and without her, most of what I say at home has no coherent meaning or specific audience. I cannot teach Alastair the same language: he will have no frame of reference. I'm sure we'll develop our own, but it will feel hollow--and somehow strangely disloyal--without his mommy's input.

2. I no longer have to remember key elements of tv shows. Who cares if I noticed (after 3 years of failing to) that Orson Hodge is Paul Atreides? I actually turned to the other side of the sofa the other night as the revelation dawned upon me, as if to share it with...whom?

3. I am solely responsible for my child. This one's the kicker. When Alastair was an infant, I was happy to be supportive, change diapers, lend suggestions, and provide feedback on life-altering decisions for our son. Amanda, as a stay-at-home mom, I felt was a more natural fit for the role of choosing his life path. Plus, she had a vision--I did not. Now the things she'd discussed or only hinted at are nobody else's problem but mine. And things that I would let go in the past now have to be addressed, because nobody else is going to step up.

The first observation causes the most rending of shirts, because it seems to quantify my sadness: I've lost my closest friend. But it's that last one that's caused the most turmoil in Casa Amos, of late.

I find myself on a really short fuse with Alastair, and it's rarely his fault. I just can't turn to anyone and say, "I've had it: he's all yours for a while." And that was part of our rapport in the good ol' days. I would come home and Amanda would get away from him for a while. She'd been with him for 10 hours and needed a break. On the weekends, those roles would reverse, and I'd need a break. But if he drives me nuts (and he's extremely proficient at finding emotional weakness), I have to call for outside help. There's no good guy / bad guy, no "go and ask your mother", not even any "let me talk to your mother about it and we'll let you know". It's on me. And I have worked very hard in my life to avoid ultimate responsibility.

Last Night I Was Sad

The evening began very nicely, with a big food brick from Chipotle, child-care for the evening, and a visit from my dear old friend Marissa (with Josafat--he's real!). After drinking some beer at home, we decided to venture out to Jon Felton's 34th birthday party, where I stayed until shortly after midnight. I had a great time, drank too much, and my clothes smell like the fire in the back yard.

But when I left, it was a very lonely walk back to the car. And a very lonely drive home. Even during Amanda's periods of incarceration in Leukemiatown, I never felt alone. Last night was godawful depressing.

But I really did enjoy catching up with old friends.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oh, Lordy

Last night Alastair was wearing underwear (big step!). He'd stood up off the potty and was attempting to pull them up by himself, when they stopped dead on his boy-bits. He tugged and tugged, then looked at me and said, "I have a big pee-pee".

I thought we'd at least get to the pre-teen years before obsessing over the size of our genitals.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Manda's Memorial Service

Service: Beautiful
Adrian: Epic Fail

I had prepared the following to read, and managed to get through all of about 5 words when my voice switched from unsteady to full-on cry (fortunately Evelyn stepped up and read it in my stead):

One year ago today, our hopes and dreams flew out the window, to be replaced with one hope—one dream: survival. That day began with Amanda’s fierce determination that NOTHING SERIOUS WAS WRONG. Then she nearly collapsed in the shower, and began losing her vision.
One year ago today, I took my wife—very much against her will—to the hospital, where blood tests revealed severe anemia. Late that night a hemotologist gave the first whispery notions of what might be wrong, that nothing simple and mundane lay in her future.
One year ago today, our lives were shattered. How fitting, then, that today we begin to pick up the pieces.
Amanda would not want us to mourn her death, but to celebrate her life. If she saw any of us crying, she’d tell us to stop being so maudlin. She carried a print of the scripture that graces the cover of your programs with her everywhere, and never gave up hope that with the right doctors, the right treatment, and God’s grace, she might yet overcome her disease, and soar on eagle’s wings.
And because of His grace, she has overcome her disease, and is soaring higher than ever eagles dared. And we, her friends, family, and loved-ones, got 354 gifts: days of borrowed time, filled with hugs, rich discussions, insight into what it means to be a mother with terminal disease, and through it all a faithful servant of God.
Her forthright nature and determination to share every element of her treatment have inspired hundreds to donate blood, sign up for bone-marrow donations, become organ donors, and contribute financially to ending this horrible disease.
Amanda did not lay down and let go of her dreams to be with her son. She fought, often against her own sense of prudence, for more time, for new treatments, for life. She wanted Alastair to grow up knowing that she never gave up.
She never abandoned her hobbies, devoting hundreds of hours to a reading competition, to keeping abreast of movies and entertainment news, and making her environs, both in and out of the hospitals, as welcoming and comforting to a little boy as possible. Never did she say, “Woe is me”.
I leave you with a couple of quotes from her blog, ones that I think capture her spirit and grace.
Five days into her first round of chemo, she posted “Yesterday morning was a little rough on this girlie. That nagging, biting fear set in, the one I've managed to keep relatively at bay since being transported to LeukemiaTown. Something compelled me to devour all this printed information on AML that the doctors gave me when I first came, and subsequently I frightened the living bazoobas out of myself.
So I wandered around my room for some time in a weepy daze, contemplating my own mortality. We all gotta go sometime, but it's some hard funky stuff to actually have the possibility that you might very well kick the bucket soon laid out before you like some sort of gruesome buffet. Then I got over myself.”*
Later, in reference to a surprising number of leukemia diagnoses in medical dramas and movies last Spring, she had this to say: “I'm telling you folks; leukemia is the new black. It's the hot disease for the season. What can I say; I've always been ahead of the trend.”

Everyone else spoke very well, and the whole thing lasted just under an hour. I am sorry to everyone I didn't get to speak to, and want to re-iterate my thanks to all who came, all who came back to the house afterward, and all who helped put this beautiful tribute together.

*Ok, so that one was heavily redacted for reading at church.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Alastair: Hey, look! A statue!

Me: Yeah, buddy. That's Arthur Ashe. He was a famous tennis player.

Alastair: Did he die?

Me: Yes, a long time ago.

Alastair: Does he live in Heaven?

Me: Yes he does.

Alastair: Like Mommy lives in Heaven.

Me: *sniff* Yep.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Grief, Candor, and my Shitty Day

I'll have to remember to delete (or at least heavily redact) this post before Alastair is a teenager...

I've felt, over the last few days, that Amanda's cremation wish is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she saved me thousands of dollars (sounds cheap, but it was very much her way) in funeral costs. All told, with 10 copies of the death certificate, shipping, and "handling", we paid less than a fifth of what some of the more basic funeral services end up costing. No fancy coffin, no concrete sarcophagus, no digging, no overwrought--and overpriced--flower arrangements lining the aisles of some horrible little chapel. And most importantly: no shipping of intact human remains, which I've been told would have cost a small fortune.

But I've lost something, too. There's no grave. No place where I can go every other weekend and just pour my heart out. No way for me to feel like I'm connecting to my wife verbally, even if just for my own sanity. Her parents are keeping the remains, as we had discussed. I couldn't bear to have them in the house (though I do have those of our first cat).

So all that's really left to me is this blog. We read each other's thoughts, sometimes commenting, but more typically generating a phone call or a late night conversation about whatever we'd posted. Some of the more personal elements that I've found myself exploring lately, I've discovered, are my way of telling her what's going on in the house, with Alastair, and with my life.

I haven't really decided yet, but this might slowly transform, at least while the pain is sharpest, into letters to Amanda. Morbid? Perhaps. Public? Absolutely. I won't be wallowing in self-pity or shopping for sympathy, but some of the writing may become a bit more painfully personal. Keep reading and following, if you'd like, and see how we soldier on.

Starting now.

I finally got around to scheduling Alastair's annual check-up. Last year's was within 2 days of his birthday, this year's not quite within 2 months. Oops. But frankly that was always something you took so much joy in: running the day-to-day elements of the house; keeping on top of what Alastair needed. I know it's a stupid excuse, but I could add the fear of germs to that, if you'd like. Heaven knows we couldn't risk him getting sick at the doctor's office and bringing that shit home to you.

But I got it done, because I'm beginning to realize how important regular check-ups are, and because I promised you I'd take care of him. It was my last promise to you, and I intend to damned well keep it. No: I haven't yet scheduled one for myself, but yes: I probably will soon. And no: not with that that ass-hat Hunley, so pray for strength for me while I pretend to try to look for a new doctor.


Alastair is doing very well. His vision tested less than perfect (20/32), but frankly I think he was bored identifying shapes and just started blurting out whatever he felt like. The heart didn't look much like a heart, any way.

He's in the 50 - 75 percentile for height, and the 75 - 90 for weight, which is consistent with prior check-ups, and he's right on track with his vocabulary and cognitive skills. She asked if he dresses himself yet, which surprised me a little. Maybe we should have let him take a more active roll in his own dressing some time ago. He does a good job helping, and is great with his shoes and jackets, but we've got some ground to make up.

The big news of the day, though, was his BM's, or lack thereof. The night he got back from TX was the night of his last significant BM: just shy of two weeks ago. He's been having sharts (shit-farts) regularly, but nothing big and chunky. His belly felt a little hard and distended, too, and Laura remarked that it felt like poo. So she suggested an enema! Oh, joy! And 3 - 4 months of a mild laxative. Apparently it's not too uncommon in kids his age, so we didn't screw him up any more or less than normal, but let me tell you: I was not prepared.

I managed to convince him, without too much trouble, to lay down with his naked booty up in the air, but he was none too thrilled by my insertion of the "pre-lubricated comfortip." He began sobbing while I squeezed the fluid into him, and gave me the most horrified look when I stood him up to sit on the potty. "Daddy! Why did you do that?!?"

But what came next, for the next 90 minutes, was more than I could have imagined. I frankly don't think he could have passed what came out of him any other way. It was a freakin' tree! He sobbed, he shook, and my oh my did he poop. And we read a library worth of children's books (I think he get's an honorary nod in the Cannonball Read for today's effort).

Twice we tried to get off the pot, and both times poop dribbled out of him onto his legs, the floor, the race-track rug in his room, every single changing-pad cover we have, the monkey towel, and his shirt.

At one point I called Leigh, just so he could hear her voice. She listened to his tears and beat a hasty path to our house, but by the time she arrived, it was all over. His poor little butt continued to ooze all evening (and probably will all night, too), but for the most part, he's done.

Apparently if they hold their poop for a while, the muscles that push it out will weaken, and what was coming out was fluid build-up from above that managed to leak its way around his stool. Yum!

Enough about that. Tim came by and cut down that tree. It finally died, and seemed to have kept pace with your decline almost perfectly. I was amaazed when I heard a chainsaw running out there today. It's a little sad to see it gone, even though it had been dying for the last year. Creepy freakin' tree.

I miss you. I love you. And Alastair said today, for the first time, "I miss my mommy." Then he told me to make you get better. Oh, God: if only I could.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

When is Mommy Gonna Get Better?

Tough questions today.

In the first couple of days after getting home, Alastair didn't ask much about where Amanda was. When I first told him that she was gone, he held me and told me to stop crying. He said, "It's ok daddy, you're all right. You don't need to cry." He had a good time, he played, and he got shuffled around a bit.

But then he started asking, and now at least once a day he asks when mommy will be home, when she'll be better, or when he can see her. I've held it together pretty well for this series of questions, answering that mommy's in Heaven with God because she was too sick to stay alive, and that God doesn't like to see us in pain.

To his question of when he can see her, I've told him that he can dream of her any time.

Today, for some reason, he seemed particularly confused and fascinated by all of this, asking at least 3 separate times about her. It's touching, really, to know that after days of silence he's interested in knowing, but it's also heartbreaking to be unable to explain it to him in terms that he can understand.

Maybe that explains why I started sobbing tonight over G&R's "Patience" on the radio ("Shed a tear 'cause I'm missin' you, I'm still alright to smile, Girl, I think about you every day now"). Again he came to me and asked why I was crying, only this time, in addition to the sweetest hug imaginable, he also sought out a tissue box, dug down into it (it was almost empty), and brought me a wad of tissues. He even went so far as to try to wipe away my tears. I love that boy.

But I'm worried about him, too. His sitters, his grandparents, and their friends have all remarked that his play is more aggressive than usual. I seem to recall him being like that before I left for Texas, but I can't be certain.

He pitched a huge fit over getting his hair cut today, and has been a nervous wreck about tomorrow's check-up. I'm not too surprised about that, as the doctors failed to keep mommy alive; he'll probably have an unhealthy fear of medicine for a while to come.

And as for me, I've made some strides around the house. My grandmother lost three husbands (why in the world would you open yourself up to that much potential pain?), and her secret to survival was to detach emotionally from the accumulated stuff and see it as just that: stuff. I've managed to prepare 4 grocery bags worth of donations, mostly in the form of jeans, socks, sports-wear, bras, and slippers.

I threw out all of her medications (except the prescription pain-killers and sleep-aids, 'cause who knows?), gave away her feminine hygiene products, and cleaned out most of her toiletries.

There's no emotional attachment to these things--much harder will be some of her shoes, t-shirts, coats, hats, and dresses. But what has helped was a long-standing problem: this house is completely full. Alastair's closet is half-filled with dresses she hadn't worn since starting Weight Watchers 5 years ago, and every nook and cranny in the house is similarly packed with old clothes, out-of-season clothes, threadbare clothes, and work clothes.

But I'm workin' on a plan to either keep all of her pink accessories or find some fitting way to honor them. There's really no way I can bequeath her pink laptop to my son: he'd get his ass kicked on the first day of school. I also can't part with her pink iPod Nano (with matching earbuds), as it's engraved. But pink running shoes, well that's another story. Maybe a pink time capsule for Alastair to look at years from now? I'm open to suggestions.