The next sound you hear ...

... will be the storm and fury of an outraged 8-year-old.

I have been telling HardPlace for weeks that I couldn't stand his room anymore. I forbade him from having friends over until it was cleaned up. I told him if he didn't clean his room, I would, and that if I cleaned it, everything would be swept away into big green garbage bags. I told him that he didn't have to do it all at once, that I would be satisfied if he just spent 10 minutes a day putting things away. I finally told him that I was going to clean his room THIS week.


It's Friday. I got out the garbage bags. All the Legos and Bionicles went into a big shopping bag. (About 2 months ago, I picked up ONLY the Legos and filled a grocery bag with them. He never even noticed, and he still has not gotten them back.) The race tracks (I think there were four different sets out) went into their designated drawer. All the game pieces went into a little bucket -- chess pieces, dominoes, etc. The trash actually got thrown out! Everything else went into a big garbage bag.


I also cleared off his shelves. Before he gets anything back, he has to vacuum the floor and dust/clean the shelves. Now I just have to figure out a reasonable way for him to reclaim his toys and treasures. I'm certainly not going to give him the whole bag of Legos, just to have them spread all over the floor again.

I wonder what he'll say when he gets home from school.... Wish me luck!

My apologies for the funky photos. The stitch feature works best if the camera is held at the same angle and in the same place for each rotation. (Actually, the Before shot reminds me of the old Batman TV show, with the bad guys' chaos symbolized by tilted floors)

Confusion described

One of my blogging buddies has a perfect description of what it's like when a widow finds love again.

To b's reason #277 being a widow stinks -- hmmm... b, have you posted 276 other reasons? If so, I'll have to excavate your archives -- I would like to add the following.

When I think "I miss you," whom am I thinking about?
When I talk to myself and say, "I wish you were here," whom am I talking to?
When I think "I love you," whom am I thinking about?

When I'm standing at the sink washing dishes, I think of hands coming around my waist, a kiss being planted on my neck. Whose hands? Whose kiss?

In truth, I have to struggle to remember what Nick's hands on my waist felt like, to remember the feel of his kiss on my neck. And that makes me so very sad. It seems so wrong that I am forgetting some of the essence of our life together. I still remember his smell, his smile, his eyes, his laugh, curling up behind him as we slept. But other pieces of him are fading away, and I don't want them to.

On the other hand, I can easily feel Ron's arms around me, feel his mouth on mine. And that is so good. So good to have his presence cross the hundreds of miles that separate us. So good to feel his tenderness and passion even though we are apart.

I love him. I want to be with him. I wish he were here. I miss him. Whom am I thinking about?


After a few phone calls and IMs from concerned friends, I finally realized that I never posted the results of Ron's myelogram. The good news is that there is nothing wrong inside his spinal column: It's all clean. The bad news is that means surgery won't make his pain go away. The good news is that they have decided it's a pinched nerve, and they are going to give him another nerve block. The bad news is that the first nerve block didn't work. The good news is that they think they know WHICH nerve to block this time. The bad news is that he couldn't get an appointment before October 3rd. The good news is that he is so relieved to not be having surgery that his mental well-being has improved dramatically.

Since we know he's not facing surgery, I've gone ahead and made an appointment with MY doctor about my bum knees. They don't hurt as much anymore, thank goodness, but one of them clicks with every step I take. I'll see my doctor on Wednesday, when she'll probably refer me either for physical therapy or to an orthopedic specialist. But first I get to go to the dentist tomorrow and get two crowns put on; then I'll be done with all my root canals, hooray!

This is not a paid advertisement!

Yesterday, Ali asked in a comment where she could find Byzantine chant. I'm answering in a new post, because I believe in sharing beautiful things.

As far as I'm concerned, if you are going to have only one recording of Byzantine chant (in English, anyway) this is the one to get. It's breathtakingly beautiful, and the enunciation is perfect so the words are easy to understand.

Of course, I may be biased because the director of St. Mary's choir is a good friend of the reader at our parish. (For you Westerners, a reader is similar to a cantor, but he is a member of the clergy, having been tonsured by the bishop.) Also, Nick and I had worshiped at St. Mary's and whenever Nick went to Boston on business, he was warmly welcomed and invited to sing ison with the choir.

The choir's page on the parish website has links to two places to order it (including the Holy Cross seminary bookstore, which is a wonderful place to lose yourself). It also has a links for listening to brief excerpts from the recording.

About Byzantine chant, from the website:
Byzantine chant is a vine heavy-laden with the fruits of illumination, deeply rooted in the traditions of Biblical liturgical worship. It heeds St. Paul's injunction to "exhort one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19).


The proper context of Byzantine chant is liturgical celebration. It is not meant to be "performed," but to be prayed. Neither is it meant for mere entertainment, it is meant for worship. The intent of Orthodox hymnographers is the same as that of Orthodox theologians, to find words and music "appropriate to God."

For both theologian and hymnist, the same principle applies: the depth of one's prayer life determines the depth of God revealed in one's work.


vocalise, n., v.

n., An exercise, composition, or arrangement in which a performer sings solmization syllables or other meaningless vocal sounds rather than a text.

v., Chiefly British variant of vocalize

Nick and I sang together. All the time. We met in the church choir. We had "our duet" that we sang with each other, and only in private. We sang grace, we sang night prayers. We'd talk to each other in song, especially when rocking a baby to sleep... Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top, Darling I'm cold, will you cover my toes?

We all know that music can express the whole range of human emotions, and for me vocalise (rhymes with lease) seems to do so more than any other style of music. What musical instrument can better capture the human spirit than the human voice? And how can words express those emotions, thoughts, dreams, and fears that are beyond words?

I'm babbling, I know. I have discovered, quite by accident, a way to express myself beyond words. I was humming randomly while housecleaning yesterday, when vocalise just came from deep within -- I stopped in my tracks and stood holding the dishcloth and simply let the music out. It took me where I needed to go, an amazing moment of transcendence.

(I've been trying to find a soundbite of vocalise on the web to link to, but I haven't had any luck. If I can figure out how to, I'll upload a track directly to this page.)

My new theme song

To dream ... the impossible dream,
To fight ... the unbeatable foe,
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow,
To run ... where the brave dare not go,
To right ... the unrightable wrong,
To love ... pure and chaste from afar,
To try ... when your arms are too weary,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star!
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right without question or pause,
To be willing to march into Hell for a Heavenly cause!

And I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star.

This song has been running through my head for days now, and it really seems to describe the determination required of those of us walking the WidowRoad.

Is there a widow among us who has not been overwhelmed with sorrow, with the wrongness of our beloved's death? Who has not been exhausted, hopeless, despairing?

And yet we continue. As much as we may want to, we don't just lie down and die. Some dream inside us drives us, keeps us going. Some star beyond us beckons us, gives us a reason to try, a desire to live.

Impossible dreams, unreachable stars ... unfathomable gratitude.

Too hard to explain, but I'll try

I wish I could tell you what a cool thing it was to have participated in project 2,996. Writing the memorial was fine, even easy -- because I knew exactly how I wanted to approach it. But I spent the better part of 2 days on the 'net (just ask the boys) reading other tributes and posting responses. The basic protocol was that people who wrote tributes visited as many of the others as they could and left a comment acknowledging their visit.

As I traveled from one site to another, I started seeing familiar names in the comments. I found myself feeling a powerful connection to the other tribute authors. I started reading more tributes to Cantor Fitzgerald employees. Wondering if Chris knew this person; maybe they were together when they died; maybe they tried to help each other; maybe they just looked at each other; maybe they were gone before they knew what had happened to them.

I repeatedly found the sentiment that the 2,996 participants would always remember their person, that he or she had become a part of their life. I feel the same way, and in embracing Chris into my life, I have somehow become more a part of humanity than I was before.

In Memoriam:Christopher Paul Slattery, age 31

January 26, 2007 -- I have noticed that some people are finding this page through Google searches on Chris' name. I can only assume that you knew him. I would be honored if you would leave a comment about him and who he was in your life.

September 11, 2006

With the passing of Christopher Paul Slattery, a son died. A brother died. A nephew died. A cousin died. A friend died. A colleague died. A brother-in-law died. An uncle died. His family, friends, and co-workers can tell you far more about the life Chris lived than I ever could. So let us pause now and think about the life he did not live.

Chris was a son who never got to toast his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. He will not be there to help his parents when they are old, to support their faltering steps as they supported his first ones. He will never introduce the love of his life to his mother and father; he won't hear his father's advice and jokes about marriage, and he won't see his mother's eyes shining with proud tears at his wedding.

Chris was a brother who will never send Dan another whimsical IM; he will never make Erin laugh again. He will never fill their hearts with love as they watch him play with their children. He will never see those children grow up, graduate high school, get married.

Chris was a friend who will never host another tailgate party; he'll never see another Giants or Rangers game. He and his cousin Tim will never open their pie-in-the-sky bar and restaurant. He will never see another parade go down Fifth Avenue. He will never fly another kite on Nantucket.

Chris was a colleague who will never broker the most important deal of the year, work on the division's biggest project, or simply make sure the day-to-day details are moving smoothly.

Christopher Slattery was a son and a brother, a nephew and a cousin, a brother-in-law and an uncle, a friend and a colleague. But he will never be a husband and a father. He will never feel his heart skip a beat when the phone rings with a certain tone; he will never have butterflies in his stomach when he asks someone to share her life with him. He will never know the wonder of becoming a father, of falling in love all over again, this time with someone so tiny as to be unbelievable.

From all accounts, when Chris died, the world lost a gentle, kind man with a wonderful sense of humor, a man who "lived life large and packed it full." He will always be remembered by those who knew him. Let us also remember what Chris lost, the opportunities for love and laughter and living.

Read more about Chris Slattery:

Blogger's note: I decided to join project 2,996 because I am a widow. While I cannot begin to fathom the horror of those whose loved ones died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I do understand their deep pain and enduring sense of loss. Because I am a young widow, with young children, I mourn the future without my husband, without my children's father, far more than I mourn the past that we shared. It is from that perspective that I decided to write this memorial.

Growing old, not-so-gracefully

In the spring of 1984, I dodged out of the way of a motorcycle and rammed my shin into the curb. My thigh bone went forward, my shin bone went backward, my right ACL went snap. At the time the best repair was what they called "filet" surgery, cutting the leg open and moving things around to reattach the ligaments. I declined and opted for intense physical therapy instead.

I've been fine ever since; it seems I am not "ACL-dependent." My knee talks to me at the change of season, and it really doesn't like getting too cold. I can't jog or play volleyball, but I can do everything I need to do in my life.

Fifteen years later, N was at the edge of a deck and I had visions of him falling 25 feet to the ground. I raced up the hill, veered around the railing, and slipped on a mossy patch. My leg went one direction, my torso went another, my left ACL went snap. By this time, arthroscopic surgery had become widely available, but there's a 6-week recovery time, not something I could do with a 15-month-old. Back to physical therapy.

I've been fine ever since; really. Sure, I have to go down stairs sideways, and I use my hands to lift whichever leg is second into the car. But I'm fine. Really.

Until now. My left leg has been hurting a lot lately. It "slips" with every step up the stairs. I can't pull my heel up back up to my thigh. It seems to be getting stiffer every day.

I am very annoyed -- to put it mildly.

I finally figured out what happened though, why it's hurting now. This knee has been bothering me ever since I fell down the stairs a few weeks ago. At the time, my back and buttocks hurt so badly that I didn't notice my knee. But as soon as my back felt better, my knee started aching.

I'm thinking it's not a coincidence. I'm thinking I should call the doctor. I'm thinking there is more physical therapy in my future. I'm thinking I still don't want surgery. I'm thinking I still don't have 6 weeks to give to rehab and recovery.

I'm thinking that I really hate that my body no longer heals itself the way it did in 1999, let alone in 1984.

On this day ...

On this day 14 years ago, I woke up in my Mother's house for the first time in eons. She came into the guest room and said, Is my baby really getting married today? Why would you want to do that? Because it's Nick! She smiled, It certainly is.

On this day 14 years ago, I went to a chi-chi salon and had my hair done for the first (and last) time in my life. The other stylists oohed and ahhhed when the stephanotis blooms were pinned into the fold of my French twist.

On this day 14 years ago, my brother-in-law drove me to the church to meet my beloved Nicholas on the steps of the church. Neither my BIL nor I ever imagined that he would later drive me to the funeral home to see Nick's body in a casket.

On this day 14 years ago, both my mother and Nick's arrived (separately) at the church 10 minutes after the ceremony was supposed to start.

On this day 14 years ago, Nick and I walked into the church side-by-side while a violin and cello played the main theme from JSBach's Wachet Auf. I was fighting back tears of wonderment and happiness.

On this day 14 years ago, Nick and I proudly proclaimed our vows of love and fidelity. Neither he nor I ever imagined that they would be fulfilled so soon.

On this day 14 years ago, Nick and I walked out of the church hand-in-hand, while the entire choir sang the grand chorale from Wachet Auf. We were trying to stifle our ebullient laughter.

On this day 4 years ago, Nick and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in an elegant restaurant, reading letters we'd written to each other during our engagement.

On this day 2 years ago, I lay on my beloved's grave for the first time (but not the last), listened to the Wachet Auf, and wailed to the heavens.

On this day, I sit watching the rain through the screen doors, listening to our sacred Wachet Auf, resisting neither the tears nor the smiles of a love that is both lost forever and treasured forever.

It's official!

I am the meanest mom in the entire world. And I couldn't be prouder.

This title was bestowed on me when I actually did what I had said I would do: When school started, I downgraded our cable subscription (gasp!) from Preferred to Basic. This means no more Cartoon Network; no more Nickelodeon; no more Disney Channel. No more trash. (Yeah, it also means no more Sci-Fi Channel; no more AMC or TCM; no more Law&Order on demand. But sometimes a mother has to make personal sacrifices for her kids.)
But there's nothing to watch on broadcast! I'll be bored! What am I supposed to do?

Your homework! Read! Play outside! Clean your room!

I am pleased to report that since shutting down the so-called "preferred" cable stations, the following things have taken place in my house:

  • N and S have spent hours doing Play-Doh together.
  • They have spent hours building (and destroying) blanket-sofa cushion houses.
  • They have been in and out of the house, playing all the time.
  • They have allowed me to read to them; we've been reading two chapters a night of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • We have been eating dinner in the dining room again.
  • We have been talking during dinner again.
  • The television is off as much as it used to be when Nick was alive.
For these reasons, and more, this is my favorite bumper sticker of all time: