Sunday, July 31, 2011

St. Cuthbert's Gospel

The above is St. Cuthbert's Gospel. According to an article on The Economist's Prospero blog, it is the oldest, intact European book. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a bibliophiles dream, and it only costs $14.3 million dollars. But don't wet your quills just yet, the book has already been purchased for Britain. In fact, says Prospero, it has been on long term loan from the Jesuits to the British Library, and it seems that is where it will stay. At times when Borders is closing its doors, and news outlets are foaming over the death of the book, it is good to be reminded of the form's ancient and elegant history. I, for one, will take this as a hearty sign that books are still loved, and still have a place, if only in our history.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting to Know You

My eldest son, Thorn, is a whirlwind of personality. His imagination is vast. One moment he is driving his train-shaped bed on a journey to some personal dream space, the next he is lining up his cars in neat little rows, all the while chatting amiably with them, or with some invisible personage. This evening he dashed about, head cocked to one side, and engaged yet another invisible personage (this time far way) on an imaginary mobile call. Each day he surprises me with some clever new game or adorable delight. What is he thinking, I wonder, when he hunches over and swings his arms low? Is he a monkey? An old man? Me, after not enough sleep? I cannot always tell what he is doing, and certainly do not always know what he is saying. He is a cipher. I know him, and yet I don't. He is continuously reshaped. What he was yesterday, he will not be tomorrow. Like the proverbial river, I am faced with a new Thorn each time I see him. I love it. Watching as he grows, and stretches his mind to wrap it around some new concept, as words, both comprehensible and not, tumble from his toddler lips, is a tremendous joy. He makes me smile. He makes me laugh. I wonder what he'll be tomorrow, what journey we'll go on, and where our day will end. Oh, fatherhood, I do love you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Contentment versus Complacency

Being content with the patterns of your life is a virtue. I strive for contentment. Finding a way to smooth out the rough bits of the world, folding them into some sort of order, and then smiling through it all - this is how I prefer to live my days. I cannot say that I always smile. I certainly do not. I also cannot say that my striving for contentment is always rewarded at the end of the day. But there is another difficulty, one that seems counterintuitive at first glance. You can fail to be content, or you can succeed. Success, however, can also be a failure. If, when achieving contentment, you fall into complacency. I am prone to complacency. I am guilty of believing matters to be settled, when they are not, of order to exist, when there is chaos, and to believe that if I am content, then so must others around me be. Complacency, as you may imagine, is difficult to end. You don't usually realize you are complacent until someone or something shakes you about a bit. Do not get me wrong. I think this shaking a very good thing. I am glad for it. It reminds me that striving for contentment in myself is only part of the work. Striving for contentment in others is also important. I was shaken tonight, and I am grateful. There are now new things to turn my mind to once again. So focused am I on certain, small things that I forget to look up, to cast my gaze around and view a world beyond my navel. Time to find a better balance between contentment and complacency. Where do you draw the line?  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Purple Files

I own a small, purple notebook. According to the Ecosystem™ website, the color is grape. Fox purchased it for me, and for the past several weeks I have kept it as a daily and weekly guide. In the beginning I have my greatest ambitions, and in the back my weekly tasks. Correspondences dominate one side of the little task page, and actual work sits on the other. I think of it as my personal Purple File. For those who do not know the reference, and who obviously do not share my nostalgia for 90s sci-fi, Purple Files refer to documents kept by all the noble houses of Centauri Prime, the home of Ambassador Londo Mollari. Those mysterious folders held secrets. There is nothing secret in my wee to-do book. Instead, I try, sometimes desperately, to create a semblance of order. It is my hope that the more I semble* the closer to actual order I will get. I am always on the lookout for ways to increase efficiency. And this, my 100th post, is a sign that I'm getting there. If anyone out there has any special things that he/she does to increase efficiency and productivity, let me know. I've some things that I'm thinking about following, and I'll soon blog about them here. For now, it is time to read, and then sleep. Infants wait for no parent, and the morning comes too soon by hours if sleep is not prioritized early in the night.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Nation Without Borders

We crossed the threshold today of our local Borders. The great glass windows, which just a few weeks ago glimmered with glossy bestsellers, were plastered with huge, ugly signs: Everything must go. Inside: literate chaos. Bookcases were disheveled. Bargain bins full, bursting and ramshackle, greeted us as we passed through the doors. The smell was still there: books, paper, thousands upon thousands of pages, mingling with the very faint aroma of stale coffee. To the left of the entrance stood much-loved cork board. The spaces where advertisements of activities in the bookstore would have been placed were dark. The rest was faded from the sun. There were no advertisements. Nothing is happening in Borders ever again. Not ours. Not yours. If you haven't been keeping up with the news, the great bookseller, once the bane and terror of independent stores succumbed to the shifting needs and abilities of our technological age. Digital music and video crushed its DVD and CD segments. Amazon, the biggest fish in the pond, crushed its book sales. Indebted to publishers, authors, and others, Borders was forced to capitulate, and now, with no buyer in sight, it is forced to close its doors for good. 11,000 hard working book lovers are now out of their jobs. Book-selling, in general, is seen to be nearing a time of significant change (if not already in the midst of it with Kindle's and Nook's abounding). But today, Fox and I had little thought of the book industry. We were swamped with our memories. For the past eleven years of our relationship, Borders has been the sight of dozens upon dozens of our most loving moments. We would go, sometimes weekly, and browse, and sit, and read, and talk. The talking was the best. Surrounded by learning, literature, the vast outpouring of words, we would talk and teach one another how to be better lovers, stronger friends, and eventually closer spouses. I will miss terribly those moments. As we wandered Borders today, with our sons in tow, we could not help but feel torn. We were mourners at the funeral of very old and very dear friend. At the same time, as we picked through the tattered remains of the bookstore's collection, we felt like vultures, come to feast upon the carrion. Complaining about the meager sales seemed out of place, and so we didn't. We shopped. One last time we filled a basket with books from Borders: histories, classics, myths, and two modern novels. Thorn, too, received a bonanza of books, which he eagerly flipped through this evening in our living room. He will never remember a Borders. Little Kit, who entered the store with us today, spent his only half-an-hour between the venerable walls. My littlest son may not even have much of any bookstore experience, unless Barnes & Noble can survive the turnings of our times. We came home, bags laden, wallet lighter, and wistful for past experiences and pleasures. We will miss you, old friend. Our Borders. In our memories you will live on as a place where we laughed, sipped coffee, and read to one another. Thank you.

RIP Borders - b. 1971, d. 2011

For further information on the Borders situation: PBS news on Borders Liquidation

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Closing Borders

We had our first date at a Borders, Fox and I. The bright lights, the galleries of books, the faint and charming aroma of new pages yearning for someone to read them called us back often over the last eleven years. So many of our books came to us through a Borders, and so many more were hoped to follow. Now comes the news that the book-selling giant has fallen, brought low by the inability to shift rapidly with new markets. The great competitor, Barnes & Noble, remains, and may even be buoyed by the collapse of its rival, but I cannot help but fear that the age of large-scale bookselling locations is near its end. Some people say that niche shops will remain, and that some may even return. This is glorious, but I will miss the opportunity to wander from fiction to history to science to gardening to cooking and back. The hours that I have spent in Borders' stores were happy ones.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Odysseus and Infinite Variety

I am reading Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey. Introduced as lost fragments of the epic tradition, Mason's novel is a collection of vignettes. Every few pages we are treated to a new episode, and to a new Odysseus. For while the character is always recognizable, Mason is not content to leave him unaltered. But, like the myths of the Greeks themselves, the Odysseus of The Lost Books is acceptable in all his varieties. The contradictory decisions, the twisting of tales, and the subversion of established and expected tradition are all tools of the postmodern novelist. What I find striking is that they were also tools of the ancient poets. The ancient Greeks, in many respects, would have appreciated our postmodern philosophies. Ideas that shift the locus of authority from author to text to something beyond the text would sit well with the poets at least, even if tut-tutted by the philosophers. Mason's novel is a delight, and I am pleased that I assigned it to my classes this summer. I think much can still be made from myth, and more importantly from the idea that myth is contradictory truth, told differently by each teller and yet recognizable by all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fatherhood 2.0

I never thought I'd ever be a dad. Children were a mystery to me. I kept them at arms length, even those cousins who might have been dear. I had no sense of their language. They were utterly foreign, and utterly incomprehensible because of their alienness. When Fox and I decided to have a child after four years of marriage, I was terrified. How could I be a dad? I'd never changed a diaper, never held a bottle, and had not the merest notion on how to communicate with a child. Then Thorn was born in the spring of 2009 and I was a dad. No schoolroom, no textbook, no certificate. Just me, a baby, and things that had to be done. I learned to change a diaper. And then I learned to change one quickly. I learned to hold a bottle, to burp an infant, and to settle one when he cries. I learned that I loved children, and that I could communicate with them, could speak to them, and could understand what they wanted to say to me. My son gave me that. He gave me fatherhood, and I am better because of it. Now, I am home. Thorn sleeps. I have tucked him in...twice. I have kissed his lips, his nose, his eyes, and his forehead just below the curls. Kit sleeps, too. My littlest son. My baby boy. He sleeps on my lap as I type this. I am a father for the second time, and I have come to understand at last how much fatherhood has given me. I do not think it has made me wiser, though I hope it will. It has given me more patience. It has given me more stability. Fatherhood has given me eyes to childhood, and to a whole language that I thought would always be barred to my understanding. Thorn's curiosity in the smallest details. Kit's little face when he frowns at a too-bright light. These things bring enlightenment. These things bring contentment. I don't know how my work will go, or what tomorrow will bring, but I do not that tonight I am a father, and that feels very, very good to me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Feeding Kitling

Fox's milk has begun to come in, and little Kit has taken to it quickly. After a long nap (right now they are all long naps) he wakes and his face is a round o, searching for food. Sometimes he latches on to his sleeves or the edge of his shirt. He rarely cries. A part of me knows that this is still very early, and that we ought to be cautious making judgements about future behavior. Another part of me is desperately hopeful. Maybe these days are signs of the future? Could be. Worth hoping for at least.

I generally feed Kit, although sometimes Fox does, if she is not pumping at the time. I fed Thorn most of the time as he grew, and it is one of the best features of fatherhood. Kit is a gourmet, a term used by the lactation experts to describe an infant who feeds for a brief period, pauses to gather in the sights and sounds, and then, when he or she feels like it, resumes feeding. When mothers nurse this type of behavior can be irritating. Since Fox pumps (exclusively - see earlier posts from Thorn's day) it is only a matter of holding the bottle and waiting for that o to appear. Delightful now. Mildly annoying at 2:00 am, but then everything is mildly annoying at 2:00.

We have one night left in the hospital. The vicodin seems to be helping Fox. We can only hope that it continues to do so through the night.

Always the Unexpected

We will not go home today. Although Fox had a decent night off the epidural, she did not have a good morning. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are not cutting it in the pain management department. The doctor came in this morning, and he ordered a stronger medicine: House's infamous vicodin. We will see if that alleviates some of Fox's discomfort. We can only hope so. Tomorrow is the last official day that someone can stay in the hospital for a normal childbirth, and Fox very much wants to get out of this hospital. For her it has been 17 days now.
Little Kit is well. He eats beautifully, sleeps well, and has been transitioning very well to this second and longest phase of human life. We look forward very much to taking him home tomorrow, and for introducing his brother to him as soon as possible. I miss my Thorn a lot, and I long for the chance for my family to be all together under one roof.
I have noted that we say stupid things when someone is in pain.
"Everything will be okay."
True, but knowing that does not always help in the moment of discomfort.
"Most people feel better by now."
Okay, but only one person is in pain right now.
And those were the highlights from this morning. When someone is in obvious pain, if our words cannot offer immediate succor, perhaps we should be silent, or let our conversation drift away from pain.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Last Night Under St. Joe's Gaze

Saturday slips away. This may be our last night in the hospital. We are blessed with the most fantastic of nurses, and Kit will spend the next few hours in the nursery. Fox and I will try to get a few hours rest. We both need it. Especially Fox. Her wounds are healing, but even the simplest of movements brings pain. Still I think she is doing better than when Thorn was born. We were first-time parents then. The second time is a bit easier. Example: diaper changing - I know how to do it this time. Bit of a learning curve that was.

It has been a long stretch, but there is probably no better place than St. Joe's to be if you have to be in a hospital for the better part of a month. Fox has barely experienced July, seeing it only through the shifting sun of her windows. We will bring her home, and hope that the weather holds. We also hope that our infestation of wasps gets destroyed this week, so that we have the opportunity to use our balcony. We have had a hive of the yellow-backed beasts tucked into the upper corner of our sliding door since late April. Several calls to the Leasing Office did nothing, and the last visit by the exterminator did even less. This time they will arrive on the 19th, and I hope they blast the stinging pests to an early rendezvous with Hades. So that Fox, Thorn, and Kit can enjoy our balcony for what remains of the summer. I am not one for balconies, but the family will delight in it.

The family. We are a family now. I mean, we were before, but now there is a sentiment of perfection. The family is complete. All its members have been assembled. Fox and I do not intend to have more children, at least not biologically. If the baby bug does bite again, adoption would be our preferred route. So far, however, we are content in our house of four. I have always liked even numbers.

Drove up to campus this evening. Needed to gather books, which tomorrow I will organize for this week's work. Always lovely in the summer, Hopkins, and I wish I had more time just to sit among the trees on the quad. Someday I will. Perhaps when I am more gray than now, more bald, and more advanced in years. Right now, it is time to dash and time to catch what sleep I can. Tomorrow night is for home, I hope. What sweeter dream than that? None, I say, none at all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


He is here. Two weeks of waiting, worrying, and wondering all fulfilled in a little, healthy, baby boy. Kit was born this morning at 10:07 am. He was delivered by Cesarean section by Doctor D., and by all accounts it was a successful and uncomplicated operation. Kit was 6 lbs and 12 oz at birth. Now, he sleeps comfortably in the maternity wing's nursery. He is bundled tightly in a blanket beribboned with pink and blue stripes. To my eyes, he looks just like his mother. Same nose. Same lips. Same troubled frown.

Fox sleeps. She has needed to for hours, but excitement kept her awake. Now while Kit is cared for, she can rest, and begin the arduous task of recuperation. Our nurses continue to be excellent, and our physicians the very best that one could hope to have. The family has received word of Kit's birth, and the glory of Facebook has spread it around. My paternal tasks for the first day are done.

I now await the pediatrician's arrival. He is going to give Kit a physical, and then I can ask him about my other baby: Thorn. Poor Thorn - yesterday he came down with something nasty, and the folks at the clinic prescribed an antibiotic. Alas, the medicine was worse than the illness, and Thorn's grandmother called me today, letting me know that he was having quite a bit of abdominal stress. We stopped the meds, but we need the pediatrician's guidance on what to do now. We shall see what he has to say. Good things, I hope.

For now, while Fox sleeps, this Sparrow will watch his Kit through the nursery window. He sleeps sweetly, and I love him already.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Final Night of Waiting

<p>&lt;p&gt;Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow my son is born. Fox and I are nervous. Especially Fox. Needles, pain, and recovery await her tomorrow and for the next several weeks. Anyone would be afraid. All we can do is hope that everything goes as smoothly tomorrow as it can. If that happens, recovery should go relatively smoothly, too.&lt;/p&gt;<br>
&lt;p&gt;Wee Thorn is with his grandparents tonight. He and I had a difficult day. He awoke this morning lethargic, sweating profusely, and as pale as a porcelain doll. With Jase-Ra's help I took him to the Patient First center down the road. Tonsillitis was the diagnosis. Thorn is much better now, and equipped with antibiotics I think he will do just fine. It was scary, however, to see him there upon the floor, looking up at me with heavy-lidded, glassy eyes. I hope that never happens again.

Time for bed, good world. Tomorrow is my son's birthday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Almost There

I write this from home. I have had to return to the apartment. Thorn needed looking after, and since Fox's health was good, I was persuaded to stay with him. Thorn has a cold, and so we didn't get to visit his mother today. We did talk to Fox on the phone, which was good for the boy, less good for me. I do not like leaving her in the hospital, even though I know she has the best of care. I miss her terribly, and I worry. Her physicians have scheduled little Kit's birthday for the fourteenth of July. That means he and Fox may come home on Sunday. I do hope so. And I hope that their health holds. I will bring Thorn to his grandparents house tomorrow, and then I will return to the hospital. The morning of the fourteenth brings many procedures, needles, and other stresses for my lady, and I want to be there when she needs me.

I taught the first section of my (second) Classical Mythology course this afternoon. The first session ended last week. It is strange to teach a course back to back without a pause. But I'm glad to be done with the night class. I was not at my best between the hours of 6:00-9:00 pm. I do much better earlier in the day. Since this new section is at 1:00 pm, I'm feeling just fine and full of energy as class starts. I also like getting home in time for dinner. Tonight Thorn and I had chicken and cucumbers. Tomorrow we'll make our way through the broccoli and asparagus that I purchased on Monday. Green food! The tastiest, you know.

Our waiting is almost over. We look forward to the end with great love. Very, very soon we'll have a new brother for Thorn, and a new son, and a newly formed family.

Life is still good. Waiting still stinks.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Night Quiet

Fox has gone to bed. I should be there myself, but I cannot sleep. Hours tick by on the big clock in Fox's room, the sun shifts just outside her window, and the nurses enter three times a shift. It is peaceful. It is dull. We try to fill our day with work and small amusements, but we are both afraid. Not over the health of our baby, who has been so strong this sluggish week, and not over Fox's health, which continues to be rosy. We fear the unknown. We fear more waiting. Will there be labor, or, as the doctor said this morning, will Fox have a Cesarean Section? If the latter, we know the date: Bastille Day - the 14th of July. But, will Fox's recovery be as difficult as it was last time? The doctors suggest it will not be, and part of me wants to trust them, but part cannot.

Routine is an essential component of our lives. Fox and I live well-ordered existences, and we are weaker than we ought to be when faced with imminent and difficult change. This is especially true when that change is preceded by unexpected disruption. I hope we can find the energy to reorder our days when they are no longer defined by a hospital's schedule.

I am also afraid, because I will need to leave Fox in the hospital on Sunday night. Fatherhood calls, and Thorn needs me. It was a difficult decision, but we did not have any choice. We will make the best of it. Fox's computer works better in the hospital than mine. We will attempt a Skype connection that will remain open while I am at home and she is in here.

Do not worry, I tell myself. Do not add trouble to today from tomorrow. Today is trouble enough. And, more, there are worse troubles than ours. All are healthy. All have food and shelter. Our problems, blessedly, are first world problems.

Now, to read about another world, another time, and the grueling lives that lived in it. Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth will see me to my sleep. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Still Waiting

Little Kit did not grace us with his presence on the Fourth of July. Independence Day went without a bang, except in Baltimore where a man was stabbed and a four-year old shot. So nice to be far from the country's sixth most violent city. Well, not so far, but within these hospital walls we feel very far indeed from the maddening crowd. As I reentered the building after teaching my evening class, I was struck by the utter silence of the place. Not a soul as I wandered, burdened by bags and tea, from hallway to hallway, and then up the elevator. The waiting room just outside the maternity wing was, as always, bright and loud. Two families sat, watching the television and waiting for news. I wait, too, but I do not expect any change tonight. I have been wrong before, but I feel that we are here for some time more. Best make what we can of it. Tomorrow morning I crack open my to-do book and figure out where I am on several projects. Tonight I'm reading Zach Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey. My class is going through it, and we'll have a discussion about it on Thursday. So far, I find it excellent. It plays delightful postmodern games with Homer's epic.  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Odious Waiting

I will not say that our stay in the hospital has been anything but peaceful. Quiescence is the rule. The nurses come and go in an expected rhythm. The machine hum of monitors and IV drips provide ambient white noise. We read. Talk. Write. And wait. Oh, the waiting! Is there anything as odious as waiting and not knowing when the waiting will end? Does Godot arrive in this play of ours? Kit's heart rate continues to show strong whenever they wrap the monitors around Fox. He reveals no hint of his infantile intentions. The doctors say it could still be anytime. Maybe tomorrow? Is our Kit especially patriotic? If so our lads have a red, white, and blue sense to them - with Thorn born around Memorial Day, and Kit potentially born tomorrow on the 4th of July. No one can say. Not for the first time have I wished prophetic powers. Alas, I am too squeamish for entrails, and I haven't the patience for birds. Knucklebones? But we all know that the bones will tell us nothing.

We are comfortable. We have food, books, and a pleasant nighttime nurse who doubles as a yoga instructor. Fox has learned some 'stuck in a bed' yoga moves, and they seem to help her relax. My mother, brother (by one reckoning), and his wife watch Thorn for us. I know he is in the best of care. I hope we can share a baby brother with him soon.

I will share more soon.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

48 Hours

We humans perceive time in such funny ways. Days always move at the same rhythmic pace. An hour on Earth is an hour. Never a second more. Never a second less. And yet, there are times when we distinctly feel the movement of time as being slower or faster. This is one of those times for me. As I wait now in the hospital with Fox, and as I watch the hours drift, it strikes me that this is longest span of days I've ever experienced. We are waiting for something, anything to happen, and all that does is hospital routine. Nurses enter. Nurses leave. Equipment gets hooked up, and then detached. The day pulses by, but it never speeds up. If time is a river, then we are stuck in a muddy outflow. Sluggish, brackish water swirling aimlessly, hoping for direction.

The doctors are not fortune tellers or oracles. Apollo might sometimes look over them, but with his gifts he is sparing. Prophecy only goes to the unlucky darlings who catch the dashing god's roving attention. Our doctors are all too lucky, but that doesn't mean they have all the answers. How long we will be in here, or when we can expect the baby are unanswerable. We can only wait, and that is what makes time seem to crawl. Time dilation at its worst.

Time for bed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fox and Institutionalized Food

Hospitals are not restaurants. The food that they serve is meant to sustain life. It need not please the palate. But we did wonder - with the state of current knowledge on nutrition, why is so much of what Fox received today pure sugar? I guess sugar is easy and relatively safe, but Fox wanted to know why, after so much time and energy spent eating well for the baby, when she gets to the hospital all she gets is sugar? It seems strange. Any thoughts? I need something to occupy my mind right now and this seems as good a thing as any.

Kit's Sneak Attack

We find ourselves on a beautiful July 1 in the labor and delivery section of our local hospital. Last night Fox's water broke, signaling that Kit was ready for the world. A little ready anyway. Fox is not in labor, and the doctors hope to hold Kit in the womb for a few more days. No matter what happens, our baby will have to spend time in the NICU. We are scared, but our physicians are amazing, the nursing staff top notch, and the hospital the nicest we've ever seen. Maybe our roguish Kit will be born on the 4th of July? Talk about fireworks.